We know it isn’t all men, but can you help my husband and me understand the type of man who exposes himself to women in a work setting, grabs women aggressively, drugs or threatens women or girls who are looking to them as mentors, etc.? Where do you think this behavior comes from? And do you believe there is any chance of these situations being stopped?
First off, we continue to make the mistake of talking about sexual abuse and harassment as if it’s about sex. We want it to be about sex, because sex is something we understand.
But this has nothing to do with normal sexual desire, which is to please and be pleased by a sexual partner. This isn’t about sexual lust. This is about the lust for power. It’s about the hunger to control, to dominate, to violate someone who is helpless to protect themselves.
This is about everything we mean by the word evil. And a man wanting to do evil is a lot harder for us to wrap our heads around than is a man wanting to have sex. So, in order to keep the conversation within a context we understand, we keep identifying it as being about sex. But that’s like identifying a rabid hyena as a cockapoo. No good can come of that error.
The primary interest that sexually predatory men have in sex is in its efficacy as a weapon. They know that if you want to do the most damage you can to a person without leaving any marks on them, you go after them sexually.
As for how we stop sexual abuse and harassment, we do that by ending the systems that grow and enable it. And this is where literally everybody has a role to play.
We stop it from growing when we stop teaching our children to glorify ideals of masculinity that are incompatible with being a decent human being. Our culture needs to end its long love affair with the man who, in the end, can’t love anyone: the lone wolf; the ramblin’ gamblin rogue; the hard-drivin’, gun totin’, love ‘em and leave ‘em type. Batman brooding in his lair, John Wayne riding off into the sunset, Superman in his Fortress of Solitude. James Bond. Iron Man. The fast and the furious. Jack Bauer. Die Harder.
It’s time we stop promoting invulnerability as sexy. Invulnerability isn’t sexy. It’s dysfunctional. No one is invulnerable. We all hurt, fear, need community, need intimacy, need love. Men no less than women; boys no less than girls.
Instead of heroicizing distant men, let’s heroicize men who go the distance. Rather than celebrate characters with strength, let’s celebrate strength of character. Let’s move from the love of power to the power of love.
The way we stop enabling sexual harassers is by realizing that they are never anything but but bullies. And bullies only bully when they’re confident no one will stop them.
So it’s up to every single one of us to stop them.
And that means no more remaining silent. No more looking the other way. No more acting like it’s not happening.
No more pretending that #MeToo doesn’t always mean we, too.