Ever since the so called “Roast busters” case broke this week, I’ve had a few men say to me that they feel sickened by the actions of these young men, and wonder what voice do we have as men? Can we as men talk about Rape Culture?
Of course we can, but more than that we need to. There have been a number of intelligent voices online who have talked eloquently and with real passion about how we as a nation need to now acknowledge that New Zealand has a serious problem. (Click here, here and here for more.)
But sadly the voices that have disturbed me has been the voices of other men.
Whether it’s John Tamihere and Willie Jackson’s bizarre and seemingly in-sightless harassment of a young woman on air, John Key’s off the cuff remark that the Roastbusters need to “grow up”, or the apparent lack of understanding of the psychological effects of rape and abuse shown in the Police’s remarks that the girls attacked have not been “brave enough” to come forward.
As a man, at these moments I feel ashamed and let down by my own gender.
And as understandable as it is, forming a lynch mob and beating the crap out of these young men in retribution for their actions achieves little but a perverse sense of satisfaction. That’s not how we need to respond as men.
We need to recognize that these young boys who have so horribly lost their way, were surrounded by other boys and men. It’s too easy to stand by and let the sexist remarks slide, the objectification occur, stand by when a mate “targets” someone who’s been drinking at a party. It’s just what happens right?
Well to do so is to turn a blind eye to what is rightly labelled “rape culture.”
Sexual violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it happens in a context where the degradation of women and children, the privileging of masculine power and the celebration of sexual conquest takes precedence over human decency and respecting others.
As men we all have a role to play. As much as it is difficult to talk openly about sex and consent, teaching our sons how to use condoms and what a cross section of a uterus looks like is woefully inadequate preparation for the world of sexuality.
Not only do we as a nation need to thoroughly investigate the actions of the Police, and prosecute these young men to the full extent of the law, we also need to stand up and stop standing by as our friends, brothers, colleagues and team mates behave towards women in ways we feel uncomfortable about.
Mates don’t let mates abuse women and children.