By Raj Gopal
I remember the first time I found myself in the backseat of a car with a girl, and at some point it occurred to me that if I were a different and much worse person- if she made the slightest miscalculation of my character given how little we actually knew each other- I could have had my way with her. It occurred that what was a pleasant postscript to the evening for me was an incredible act of courage and trust on her part. She was alone with someone twice her size and strength, and what should have been (and was) an otherwise great night was stained by the knowledge that I was a threat to her- not because of anything I said or did or because I gave her any reason to mistrust me, but because that’s just the world we live in. Because of rape and rapists, part of being a man means being a threat to women.
What’s sad is that in a weird way, this article is old news. We’re already socialized to think of straight male sexuality as inherently violent, threatening and exploitative- to the point where women are blamed for wearing revealing clothing and tempting men who, poor beasts, can’t help being the psychopathic lust-filled monsters they are.
But of course, that’s the strongest incentive that decent men have (besides decency itself) to address rape and rape culture as the grotesquely pervasive problems they are. Rapists poison the well. They cultivate a society where we think of all men as a threat, when it’s not men that are the problem but rapists. Or at least, that’d be true if men didn’t make such a concerted effort to rationalize rape or pretend it isn’t an omnipresent problem- which they ironically do because they want to believe that men aren’t actually that ludicrously bad.
I don’t think sexual violence is in human nature. What is in human nature is the exploitation of power. The bright side of that is that rape might someday be as unthinkable to us as owning another human being. But in order for that to happen, men need to ask themselves: Do we want a world where we can pretend rape is an anomaly as opposed to an epidemic, just to convince ourselves we’re not that bad? Or do we want a world where the false equivalency between “men” and “rapists” has no foundation at all, instead of the horrifyingly solid one it has now?
Raj Gopal (Rutgers University) Raj is a writer, editor and proficient book-haver whose interests include literature, history, philosophy, current events, pop culture, gaming and amateurish drumming. He is currently a staff writer for Quiet Lunch Magazine and likes to spend his spare time as an eccentric hermit, making invaluable contributions to Electromagnetics and palling around with Mark Twain. Raj lives in New Jersey for some reason.