Men can stop rape’…so why don’t they?

Men can stop rape'...so why don't they?

by Mark PleissNews Editor

There was always something about it that bothered me, but seeing the sensitivity of the issue, I decided to leave it alone.

I made some satirical cracks in my younger years writing this column, which weren’t always well received, so I’ve been weary to tackle matters such as these since.

Slowly, in the back of my mind, an argument began to form, and after talking to several men and having raked my own conscience, I think there’s a point worth making to not only help us foster dialogue on the situation, but to help a needed message hit its target audience, especially as Women’s History Month comes to an end.

My complaint secretary is standing by.

Anytime a male wants to talk about rape, especially in a classroom, it usually causes problems. I’ve learned the topic is just as heated as abortion, and it often times creates a similar vacuum for logic on both sides due to its emotional pull. But to me, some things should always be discussed so truth can be found, whatever form it takes.

I’m sure many of you have seen the signs on or off campus: “Men Can Stop Rape.” Frankly, this message has always bothered me, but I always thought if I went against it, it’d make me a bad human being. Maybe that’s because the premise is indubitably true:

If no man raped, there would be none, duh.

Nevertheless, I asked around to a few of my fellow males, then to some more, and I found most of their responses to be as negative as mine, but none of us really could say why.

Truly, the idea is noble. By saying “Men Can Stop Rape,” the burden is falling completely on the part of males, and hopefully a few men will understand the truth of the message and spread the word to their friends. The message seeks a peaceful, moral end most any decent person would shoot for.

So why is it so bothersome?

After a good deal of thought, I’ve found the statement’s problem to be two-fold.

The first problem is it makes what’s typically a complex situation into a black and white one.

Obviously when an organization wants to get its word out, it has to sum it up in a few words to sell to the masses, but I’m not sure rape and sexual assault are always that easy to package, and I definitely don’t think “Men Can Stop Rape” succeeds, either.

Though I don’t doubt it happens, the scenario where a man jumps on a woman and rapes her isn’t as prolific on a college campus, especially one like Simpson. These are the types of cases I could see as being black and white, a man forcing his will upon a woman who has no other option.

Instead, as we’ve read about several times in The Simpsonian in the years I’ve been on staff, what usually occurs is sexual assault, and it often involves a series of events exacerbated by alcohol.

Now, whether a woman should assume some responsibility over what happens to her when getting drunk on her own will, to me, is a legitimate question, but that has nothing to do with my point.

What I hope people recognize is that there are typically a number of transgressions, bad decisions, sometimes alcohol and finally a moment where the man should stop, and for whatever reason, doesn’t. Here, the logic of the sign still works. Despite all these other factors, if the man stops, a sexual assault or rape won’t occur.

Unfortunately, that logic doesn’t pay any attention to the various other elements that lead up to the male’s sordid decision. Therefore, I think those “details” are important, and they show the issue typically isn’t a black-and-white one and shouldn’t be sold as “Men Can Stop Rape.”

The second point was the most commonly found by talking to other males. I think a lot of men, including myself, see that sign and get defensive. I’ve never raped anyone, so why am I being classified as being part of a group that does such horrible acts?

In that way, males, including myself, believe the statement demonizes our sex from the start, which leads to males becoming disgusted by the statement. Meanwhile, I think it acts more as a rallying cry for women because it liberates them from responsibility, which inevitably leads the two groups in opposite directions.

This goes against the form of feminism I’ve always agreed with, that which strives for male and female harmony.

Buy my explanations or my arguments or not, it seems to me a lot of guys aren’t being sold on the idea of “Men Can Stop Rape,” and therefore it isn’t effective. But that doesn’t mean all messages are bad.

I particularly like the messages sophomore Josie Rundlett and senior Jeff Goodell are spreading. Goodell is bringing the “Real Men Don’t Rape” campaign to campus, which I believe is a stronger, smarter and less caustic message to men.

With this wording, the message of “Men Can Stop Rape” is included, but it succeeds in distinguishing between “real” men who respect women and, I suppose, “woosy” men, who don’t.

Such a message plays upon male testosterone–ironically that which often drives men to rape–to make men not want to rape.

Rundlett’s Clothesline Project is agreeable to me as well because it doesn’t bother with black and white statements at all. Instead it focuses strictly on awareness for women’s rights.

Whether you agree with me, or with the signs, or whether have your own thoughts on the topic; in the end, it’s not that important. What all these messages try to achieve is a morally justifiable end any civilized human should agree with. Dialogue is truly what’s going to help curb this problem of humanity, and I think it’s important that everyone, on both sides of the gender table, has their points heard.

Again, my secretary is standing by.

*Web Editors Note – A line was removed from the Web version that was in the print version as requested by the author.