Alex Yarde comments on the satirical petition calling for straight men to be banned from driving, insisting that men truly are capable of controlling their sexual behavior.
“Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.” ― Benjamin Franklin
A satirical petition on Whitehouse.gov called “Prohibit Straight Men From Driving” states that because public schools find it necessary to prohibit students wearing tank-tops, tube tops, and shorts that are deemed “too short,” because these could distract male students, we should be careful to regulate situations where any straight male may become distracted by a woman and then become a danger to others. Thus it makes sense to ban straight men from operating vehicles, which weigh thousands of pounds and go at high rates of speed, because a suggestive billboard or a woman whom they deem attractive could cause an accident.
The petition is clever satire and points out the absurdity of the point of certain dress codes. These dress codes propagate the false idea that men, somehow, can’t control themselves and don’t have any obligation to control themselves. Those who perpetuate the “Male Weakness” myth end up being apologists for those men who commit sexual assault and legislators without the imagination to tackle the underlying issues of educating a generation of boys not to rape, as opposed to burdening a generation of girls with the task of avoiding being raped.
Though dress codes themselves are not necessarily wrong, the intention behind them should have some careful thought behind it. A school which uses dress codes in hopes of restricting gang violence or inappropriate sexual behavior is not going to accomplish much to prevent these things from happening. The problem is most assuredly not what the kids are wearing.
Show me a society that has a restriction on women’s dress and I will show you a society that is not dealing with their sexual assault issues. In Uganda, the Government is debating the merits of a law that will ban thigh-bearing skirts because the President feels they “provoke” sexual crimes, which are increasing rapidly in the country. Such “decency” laws are common in countries such as Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan in which women must be covered. These laws have little impact on the incidence of sexual assault. Often these societies have high rates of such crimes because there is a lack of a modern education for children about human sexuality. These laws exempt the perpetrators of the crime from any accountability and do nothing to prevent the crime itself.
Unfortunately, the very same issues and attitudes are not unknown in the United States. In the last election, many candidates touted bizarre theories about rape, pregnancy, contraception, abortion, and related topics. U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri infamously stated that pregnancy rarely occurs as a result of what he called “legitimate rape.” Indiana State Treasurer and U.S. Senate nominee Richard Mourdock said that pregnancy from rape was “something that God intended.” This flawed logic exemplifies a culture that blames victims while simultaneously pardoning their attackers.
It’s wrong. Sexual violence against anyone, male or female is wrong. Full Stop. Rape is about power. Those with power over others need to learn restraint, not be given excuses for inexcusable behavior. Can’t we as a society do better to educate our youth so tragedies like the Steubenville, Ohio rape case don’t occur?
I remember being raised in a home of compassion and respect for everyone. My mother, being a medical professional, was very matter of fact about human sexuality, which is something I now appreciate. My mother and older sister were important female role models for me growing up. It’s hard when you know better to act as if you don’t.
My dad—though I could tell it made him uncomfortable—spoke to me at length about the importance of being compassionate to one’s intimate partners. No meant no. I was lucky that I had the parents I did and inherited the self-esteem, respect and empathy for others they had. But it seems these are in short supply in many households. Morality doesn’t have a price tag or a zip code. Respect for others should be an important value taught in every home.
We need to have the awkward conversations with our sons. In a country where 1 in 6 women will be assaulted by the time they reach college age, we need to teach young straight males to see women as more than sexy billboards or trophies to acquire. Their own self-worth shouldn’t be measured in notches on a bedpost. They need to realize the women in their lives that mean the most to them are subject to sexual violence.
The prevalence of a culture of rape is inherently misogynist and detrimental to males as well.
Violence aimed at boys is likely to be minimized or dismissed by adults, leading to increased acceptance of bullying. False bravado and conflict with other males trying to be “macho”.
Men feel compelled to prove their dominance over others by using violence. This affects other men disproportionately, since dominance over women is already assumed in many situations. Men are more likely to face a serious physical assault or murder than women, and this violence is almost always at the hands of another man.
Empathy and compassion for others aren’t seen as qualities that are important for young boys or men to cultivate and it repeats the cycle of violence. It’s insidious and self-perpetuating.
All males need to have the courage to speak out, even if it’s as simple as not laughing at a joke that uses rape victims as the punchline. Making rape seem okay by laughing about it “normalizes” attitudes that perpetuate a culture of rape.
It’s not Pollyannaish to assume males can control themselves. It’s what should be expected, isn’t it?