Every female student’s hand went up when I asked who had ever been catcalled, holla’d at, or been the focal point of unwanted verbal or physical sexual advance, harassment, pressure, or abuse.
Some students admitted they had been the receiver of this kind of blatant verbal abuse since ages as young as six years old.
Six. Years. Old.
Every hand. These students have told me stories—in front of male students who were willing to listen and learn (and many male students agree on seeing and hearing the same)—of the pressure they feel to be sexual objects or to physically please their boyfriends or girlfriends when they don’t want to, along with the strange dress code rules that seem to say to them, you’re the reason Johnny and Bobby are horny and misbehaving.
And the overwhelming reports, not just from my students, of the sexual abuse that takes place, it seems, to almost all girls and young women from men they trust or men they have no choice in trusting—the uncle, stepfather, the older brother’s friend.
It’s the same story over and over, and men don’t see it. Boys don’t see it. I didn’t see it until I was out of high school, and because boys and men don’t experience it to the extent that females do, many of them can’t see it and therefore deny that it’s a reality, or that it’s a reality on par with physical abuse.
Or, like the sexual abuser, they assume that women like it and want it, and that their purpose is for sexual pleasure, even though they may be too young to know what’s really going on.
For a young woman to not only know what’s going on when she’s abused, leered at, catcalled, or advanced upon, but for her to have complete knowledge of what the abuser wants is psychological torture, trauma, and a demand that young women should never have to deal with.
Physical abuse doesn’t demand that you perform or make the abuser feel good—physical abuse demands you feel guilt or shame and get beaten, although there are variations of abusers and torment.
These experiences and surveys aren’t from just one class, however, but a recurring scene and conversation in my classroom over the years as we’ve discussed current events, Shakespeare and literature, rhetoric, debate topics, and the usual potpourri of themes that come up while working on ideas for critical writing.
As an English teacher, I always aim to foster a safe and friendly environment where my students can engage the text, conversation, and each other without threat of alienation or abuse; our class conversation often tends to focus on “Text to Self” and “Text to World” discussions, and whether we’re discussing Hester Prynne, Montana Wildhack, Lenita Crowne, or Penelope, Calypso, and Circe, the subjects of sexual assault, gender bias, and society’s expectation are not far.
My male students—much like I was in high school and college—are unaware of the abuse that women have to endure.
It’s a whole “Woman vs. Society” theme that our male-dominated authors didn’t give a ton of attention to over the past few thousand years of literature.
But every hand?
It’s time we slowed our conversation, listened more intently than ever before, and talked about this so we can put a stop to sexism, abuse, torture, and trauma in our lifetime.
Read Jeremy McKeen every week on The Good Men Project.
And thank you for sharing this!
And Join Us to discuss:
The Good Men Project is different from most media companies.
Here are more ways to become a part of The Good Men Project community:
Request to join our private Facebook Group for Writers—it’s like our virtual newsroom where you connect with editors and other writers about issues and ideas.
Click here to become a Premium Member of The Good Men Project Community. 1) Get access to an exclusive “Members Only” Group on Facebook, 2) View the website with no ads 3) Get free access to classes, workshops, and exclusive events 4) Be invited to an exclusive weekly “Call with the Publisher” with other Premium Members 4) Free commenting badge, listing on our Friends page, and more.
Are you stuck on what to write? Sign up for our Writing Prompts emails, you’ll get ideas directly from our editors every Monday and Thursday.
Join our exclusive weekly “Call with the Publisher” — where community members are encouraged to discuss the issues of the week, get story ideas, meet other members and get known for their ideas? To get the call-in information, either join as a member or wait until you get a post published with us. Here are some examples of what we talk about on the calls.
Want to learn practical skills about how to be a better Writer, Editor or Platform Builder? Want to be a Rising Star in Media? Want to learn how to Create Social Change? We have classes in all of those areas. Classes are included free of charge with our $20 a year Gold Membership.