Masculinity and Rape Culture

The content of this article could potentially be triggering to victims of sexual assault. I do not write about these issues lightly; rape and sexual violence are some of the darkest and most evil things people do to one another. I think it is important to have frank conversations about the rampant violence in our sexual culture because to not do so is to sit by while our minds are twisted and our friends are in danger.

Often times I think many cisgender men miss the point behind combating rape culture. It is an evil, ugly and violent facet of our society that poisons people’s sexual experiences and threatens our lives.

Toxic masculinity is not inherent in men, it is taught. I do not believe that the massive difference between violence perpetrated by men versus women is a result of men being some kind of “warrior” gender. Our culture creates ludicrous standards for manhood that push people to desperation. Men commit suicide in startling numbers. Masculinity is constructed in such a way in our society that men feel they have to constantly perform stoic violent masculinity. This ideal, which is unattainable for most, is a nefarious risk to male-identifying people. Many male identify-ing people lose track of who they are and what they think in order to gain the social expedience of hegemonic male privilege.

For me, learning to understand my sexuality has at times been very painful. I believe that sexuality is a spectrum, but I have only really sought out women as romantic and sexual part-ners. I find that whatever the incarnation of heteronormative “hook-up” culture we have at Law-rence creates very hegemonic and monolithic roles for men and women. Whether at events and parties or in private conversations, I have experienced many instances where I felt like the role I was pushed into playing as a straight man was so far removed from my understanding of myself that I had to take myself out of the situation. People talk about heterosexual sex like it is conquest and colonialism instead of connection and exploration. I hear from my LGBTQ-identifying friends that there are also confusing and violent problems due to individuals’ expressions of masculinity in hook-up culture.

Rape and violence against women is so ubiquitous in our society that it is impossible for young men to not come to understand their own sexuality in relationship to the “locker-room talk” social norm they hear from their peers, popular media and the President.

While I think people should have whatever kind of sex life they want to have, many people have really horrible experiences with hook-up culture because instead of having honest communication with their partner(s), they follow hegemonic gender protocols that leave everyone uncomfortable. Random sex is not inherently bad, but a culture of communication-less random sex can contribute to rape culture .

As a Greek-affiliated man, I have to work really hard to parse out what is my own gender expression and sexuality and what is part of our culture’s white supremacist patriarchal projec-tion of what I should be.

Ending rape culture is about making sure future generations of people do not have to fear sexual violence and that our next generation of men understands the dynamism of manhood and does not end up so twisted as to rape another person.

With so much sexual violence in our country, this is a personal issue for individuals, families and communities. We need to have frank conversations about what it means to be a person ready for sexual intimacy and I think the most important part of that is respecting and communicating honestly with our partners. Our discomfort over talking about sex is dust in the wind compared to the harm we are inflicting on ourselves and each other.