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I had an epiphany today.
We talk about “Sexual Assault” and “Sexism in the Workplace” as if they are two somewhat different sides of the same coin.
That is — *sometimes* sexism in the workplace involves overt sexual assault or sexual harassment — but not always. There is a lot of sexism in the workplace that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with sexual assault. And likewise a lot of sexual assault takes place completely outside the workplace.
But my epiphany was this:
For some men, the abusive men, the problem is very simple and cuts across both sexual assault and sexism in the workplace. And sexism in places like Congress. And in the way situations of domestic violence unfold.
SOME MEN simply don’t want a woman to say “no” to them. For any reason.
Some men simply can’t imagine a women saying the following words to them. It would be a personal affront, a sign of failure, just something they cannot handle as reasonable adults.
“No, I don’t want you to kiss me.”
“No, I can’t give you that promotion.”
“No, that report isn’t good enough.”
“No, I don’t want to flirt.”
“No, I can’t give raises across the board.”
“No, your idea isn’t going to work.”
“No, I’m too tired to have sex with you tonight.”
“No, I’d prefer you didn’t touch me there.”
“No, we cannot pass this bill as written.”
I have seen this firsthand. I have been told this overtly in workplace settings; I have been told this overtly in sexual settings.
The gist of what I am told is: “I’m not going to have some woman tell me “no”.”
And what happens is—-if a guy is one of those guys who won’t take “no” from a woman—he will do everything he can to undermine her if she does say “no”.
When a woman says “no”, it is not a clear path to the bad behavior not happening. For abusers, saying “no” has the opposite effect.
Saying “no” to an abuser leads to more abuse.
Sometimes it is physical abuse. Sometimes it is coercion. Sometimes there is sneaky, manipulative undermining. Sometimes there is shaming, or discrediting. Sometimes ignoring your “no” leads to the relationship badly. And sometimes saying ‘no’ to an abuser leads to a mass shooting.
But saying “no” to an abuser always leads to bad results. Sometimes catastrophic.
If you are a man and still not convinced, trust me on this one. Trust the women who have been there.
Again, it is #NotAllMen. And the men who are the good guys often can’t see this because they would never behave in such a manner. But that is part of what abusers *count on that* to perpetuate their abuse.
How abusive men gain complicity from men who are not abusive.
In order for abuse to spread systemically, abusers need complicity. The need to count on other people to either allow their behavior—either with overt permission or tacitly, by not speaking up.
Here is one example of the way abusers get other people to be complicit in allowing abuse to happen. Abusers convince non-abusers to agree to not say “no” upfront. Yes, that’s a double negative. Let’s re-phrase that.
Abusers get others to agree—often up front and explicitly—that they will not say anything about abuse.
Think I’m kidding? Let’s look at some examples.
At least until very recently, you knew that if you are joining a frat, you were going to be subject to some sort of hazing. You agree to it up front. Even in schools that don’t explicitly allow the more abusive hazings, you still agree to a “fraternal order code” that you follow. Your brothers are your brothers, and part of the whole reason for having fraternities in the first places was to give men a place where they could cover for other men.
You know that when you are being initiated into a frat, Rule number 1 of initiation is: “You cannot say “no” to anything we do to you tonight or you can’t join.”
You agree to be complicit in abusive behavior.
Example: On the football field
Think about the main argument that allows concussions, brain injuries and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) to continue in football games: “They know what they are getting into.”
Sound familiar? (see also, fraternities).
You are agreeing that if you play football, you will allow yourself to be abused. There is little room for “no” once you agree to that.
Other cultural narratives we know exist that feed into a ‘code of silence’ for [sometimes] bad behavior:
–What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
–The Old Boys Network
–Locker Room Talk
–The Board Room
“We will be abusive behind closed doors and if you witness it you cannot talk about it. After all, you agreed up front not to talk about it!”
Once again, it is no surprise that those sorts of “clubs” are a mixture of sexual scenarios and workplace ones. And it is no surprise that those places have historically been mostly men. Because, as we’ve discussed above, abusive men don’t want women telling them “no”.
Even if men don’t want to be a part of the “club”, or the “upper echelon” (which thankfully is changing as upper echelons go) — that same pressure to not call out abusive behavior is still ingrained in our culture.
That is the culture we are trying to change.
In the post, he talks about a woman who was offered an investment deal. A not very good one. Here is how Charlie describes it:
It’s literally the first time I’ve ever seen a cap that low and I really don’t believe a guy would have been offered that cap, or if nothing else wouldn’t have been expected to take it.
Instead, the founder asked around about the deal. Do you know what a VC backed male founder told her? He said that it’s hard for women to get funding and she should take what she should get?
Makes my skin crawl.
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