#bettermen – What men can do for #metoo
By Kai Teo
#metoo is a call to action
The #metoo movement that spread throughout all social media platforms this week has given our mothers, sisters, daughters, partners, and loved ones a collective voice to share their harrowing experiences of sexual violence and violations against them. As our sisters bravely brought to light their personal nightmares, what it awoken inside men around the world was the question, “Was it me?”
The web community salutes the courage of those who have published their stories online, and we all stand with those who choose not to. As a man, I write this not with the purpose of steering the conversation away from women, I write this not to say that the violence we have inflicted is ok, and most importantly of all, I write this not to claim that “I understand”.
I’ve written this to thank all the women who have helped men realise that sexual harassment is any sexual advances that would make a woman feel uncomfortable. We should’ve realised that ourselves, but for a long time, men haven’t been properly listening. I want to thank our friends who have helped us understand that sometimes, a “yes” is given because some women find it extremely difficult, or even dangerous, to say “no” to get out of a threatening situation. And I write this to remind our brothers, fathers, sons, partners, and loved ones that we need to take corrective action to change today’s narrative.
We want to change
As the internet opened our eyes up to the extent of the worldwide epidemic, I also saw men trying to join in the conversation with their own #metoo stories of harassment by other men, something I feel that should also be taken seriously. I empathise too, with the men who have been attacked by other men just because they look less macho, wear dresses, or have mouths that look like “they give good blowjobs”. Their stories serve also to indicate that the problem isn’t a battle of women VS men, but humans VS the patriarchy.
Some male friends were overridden by guilt and chose to say #iamsorry. They admitted to being coercive, pushy, inconsiderate, insensitive, manipulative, violent, and many other forms of violations against women. To me, they admitted that they had been part of the problem, they no longer could hide behind their own self righteousness or self deceit to convince themselves that “it was just a one-off thing”, and they finally admitted that what they have caused was real trauma, real pain, and not just someone “overreacting”.
“Likes” on their statuses have angered some who think that these men don’t deserve forgiveness or reconciliation, and that the online community’s acceptance of these apologies would make their actions seem ok.
I too, had been pushy when it comes to sex. I too, have used my influence as a leverage to ask for nudes online. Many of my female friends would have experienced this. I had somehow convinced myself that it was ok, because I’m a hippie, and “it’s all about the free love”. But I now see that it has made many of you uncomfortable. I am deeply apologetic for my past actions, and I don’t dare seek forgiveness, because I understand that forgiveness is a luxury that I had given up the rights to from the first time I asked for a nude selfie even without mutually establishing a sexual relationship.
But I, as well as numerous people online today, thanks to the courageous souls who have selflessly shared their #metoo stories, have been inspired to come out of our self denial and start making changes. And I sincerely hope that all of us, as a united human race, can work together towards a safer, freer planet.
Let’s heal together
For a long time, we have been a society that talked about freedom all the time but didn’t quite understand it. For a long time, we didn’t know that one’s freedom ends where another being’s freedom begins. And for a long time, we’ve been fucking ourselves, and others, over.
The patriarchy and its archaic attitudes towards sex have created a predatory sex culture where physical union isn’t a consensual, mutual sharing of intimacy, but a perverted game of “scoring”. A world that truly celebrates sexual freedom cannot be possible when we put our own desires, beliefs, and misconceptions above the safety and security of others.
We have turned the beautiful act of genuinely giving someone a compliment on the streets into a threatening “I want to fuck you” catcall. We have perverted the innocent gesture of asking politely for someone’s number and made it an ugly molestation on the dance floor. We have misread all the friendly smiles as a sign that “this person definitely wants to fuck me”.
And with that, we have created this toxic climate where our mothers, sisters, daughters, and partners no longer feel safe walking home alone at night. So much so that it’s not uncommon for anyone who’s not a cismale (male at birth, identifying himself as a male throughout his life) to bring either a pocket knife or a pepper spray when they’re out.
But that can change. And this must change.
For now, us men have brought upon ourselves a world where even our most sincere of innocent intentions can be viewed as a threat. To change this, we have to stop any unsolicited advances, learn to ask without expectations, and love selflessly.
Consent is not “er…. maybe?” but rather “Yes, yes, yes!” When we’re unsure, don’t. Go home, have a wank, go to sleep. A “no” is a “no”, no one’s playing games with you, we’re not kids. Don’t be fearful of awkward rejections, but be terrified of crossing someone’s boundaries. To you, someone might seem to be “overreacting”, but this person might have a tragic history as a victim of sexual violence that you don’t know about, so shut the fuck up, go home, have a wank, go to sleep. “But women like men who take the initiative!”, not all, and for those who like that, they’ll tell you.
When we see someone in potential trouble, we step in to help. Sure, it can be misread as a macho act of “saving the damsel in distress”, but fuck that, we might actually be saving someone’s life. If we can’t handle it alone, scream really loud, get as much outside attention as possible.
When we see another man misbehaving, we step in to stop him. No excuses.
If we want a free love, free sex culture, we need to build an environment where everyone feels safe to be free. So let’s all start with ourselves, learn, and start being better human beings. Maybe then, we’d be allowed to have our own hashtag as #bettermen.
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