Sincere Kirabo has some new ideas about the age-old problem of men making unwanted advances towards women.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that may suggest otherwise, men are not naturally depraved or incapable of respectable consideration towards women.
Still, culture influences biology, as cultural neuroscience has revealed. Society’s structure of norms and values that boys and men are socialized into results in skewed concepts of what is acceptable treatment towards women. This is commonly referred to as toxic masculinity. In my piece titled What Does Being A Man Mean To You, I define toxic masculinity as:
Socially constructed patterns of belief which build, promote and reinforce a particular code of manliness that either contravenes natural predisposition or is, in some way, adverse to the perpetrator and to all those subjected to its manifestation. They are preposterous, patriarchy-induced ideas stipulated by a feedback loop long ago established by archaic mentalities, and oftentimes uncritically accepted as valid truths due to the insidiousness of normalized thought.
One of the fruits produced by this mindset seems to be wildly inappropriate and bizarre forms of “courting.” This includes what is commonly found in social media wherein men, oftentimes strangers, will send women unsolicited lewd comments or pictures. The problem usually becomes inflamed when these sordid sexual advances are rightly snubbed, as men in these situations tend to resort to insults and belligerence when their egos aren’t coddled by the subject of their harassment. Countless women have been affected by this trend. Sadly, I doubt many scrutinize the matter, as its implications are taken for granted.
Why do men do this? How are we not able to see how this is juvenile, misguided, offensive, and even disgusting? What is the thought process behind this flagrant disregard for boundaries and decency? I wager this conduct is likely due to a confluence of reasons.
Of course male privilege is a factor. Male privilege walks hand in hand with an inflated sense of entitlement. As a result, notions of boundaries are either nonexistent or unheeded in the perpetrator’s mind. Even if some standard etiquette is observed, they may discount it thinking the rules don’t really apply to them. They believe they are somehow different, exempt from the rules of relational engagement.
Men are taught—more tacitly than explicitly—that women are theirs for the taking, like property to be plundered. These kinds of messages are rampant within our culture: accepted social constructions, religious belief systems, music, cinema, and literature. These beliefs nestle within our psyche, corrupting our ego, and creating implicit biases that, among other things, warp our sense of what is and isn’t appropriate.
A distorted concept of quid pro quo is an offshoot of male entitlement where we think that if we send “just the right” image or formulation of words that the woman will take notice and even reciprocate. This is especially the case when men feel like their advances (juvenile, dimwitted encroachments) are being ignored. Some then resort to this sexualized power play, thinking it will elicit interest. I realize this isn’t the only explanation, but it may account for a portion of those who think this form of obscene communication is kosher.
What is crucial to remember is that, unlike men (not counting intersectional factors), women are subject to systemic othering. Othering is the state of an individual or group being distinguished as “not one of us,” or an out-group. This alienation is the viewing or treatment of a person or people as being somehow dissimilar in nature when compared to the in-group. Women—those who are imagined as less than the default state of being (men)—are more readily expected to be subservient creatures that bend to the impulses of the “superior stock.”
Some attempt to claim “ignorance” as having a part in this indecency. I agree that inexperience will lead to clumsy or crude approaches, and that there’s also a normalized narrative suggesting men should be pursuers. This pursuer (chaser, hunter) code of belief reasons tenacity “grants victory,” as if women were an opponent that must be bested by being worn down. None of this, of course, excuses vulgar “flattery” or images. Ignorance isn’t a worthy justification. There’s an underlying disconnect at play here anchored in a certain level of disrespect for women, which is something toxic masculinity reinforces.
Power, both the assumption of it and craving for it, has a great deal to do with the expression of this ill-treatment. Those who lack control in other areas of their life or those who are insecure in some way may see these types of interactions as a way to impose dominance. It could very well be an outlet meant to support exaggerated ideas within themselves that assert “I’m the man,” this belief essentially translating as “I am in control. I am desirable. I desire her. I can have her. I know what she wants …”
Whatever the rationalization, this behavior is almost always seen as tasteless and disturbing. It is extremely rare that this tactless method has a positive outcome, which substantiates the fact that those who insist on doing this are self-involved and aren’t actually concerned with women beyond carnal knowledge. The term “think before you speak” is a vital proposition that really needs to be internalized for those who even remotely believe sending uninvited messages stating or displaying explicit, lustful intentions.
Men, repeat after me: This type of behavior is not okay. No, you are not the exception to the rule. Women are not livestock. Women do not exist for the mere pleasure and whims of men. Women are people. Women are complex human beings, each with their own unique set of wants and needs. Treat them like it.
Originally published on Patheos.
Photo courtesy of author