The Good Men Project

From goodmenproject.com:

A letter to my brother, and all his college friends,

College is awesome, right? No parents, no curfew, no rules, and there are girls everywhere. It is an alcohol-fueled, school-spirit-enhanced buffet of ladies, and it’s hard not to want to sample everything on the menu. So you should! Seriously, I’m not going to rain on what could potentially be a literal parade, so just be safe and have fun.

You’re waiting for the “but,” because I’m your nagging big sister and that’s what I do. Here it is: Be safe, have fun, but don’t be a manipulative, coercive asshole about it. There’s story after story about on-campus sexual assaults, astoundingly high rates of date-rape, and even more terrifying estimates of unreported incidents. I’m not worried you’ll be that guy, but there are still dozens of tempting and legal ways to be a douche when you’re trying to get some action. Forgoing these “techniques” requires recalibrating your hook-up goals to emphasize consent, respect, and yes, pleasure, instead of “scoring.”

◊♦◊

There are strategies to get laid that are violent and criminal, and there are methodologies that are just mean-spirited and misogynistic. You can find the drunkest girl in the bar and hand her another shot. You can physically back a girl into a corner at a party until the only way out is through you. You can cut a girl down to size with backhanded “compliments,” belittle her until she thinks the only way to feel good again is to win your attention. You can taunt her with insults about prudishness, until she thinks she needs to prove something. You can taunt her with insults about sluttiness, until she thinks she might as well confirm what you already think of her. You already know that these dick moves are beneath you.

There are milder forms of deception and coercion, though, tactics that are dangerous because of their efficacy and subtlety. These are the ones to which I want to draw your attention. You can lie about your feelings for her. You can promise things you can’t deliver. You can agree to commitments you know you’ll break. You can hear hesitation or uncertainty in her voice, and ignore it. You can play with her emotions, knowing full well that if you were honest about your lack of intentions, you’d lose your shot at a hook-up. You can know that if she were sober, she wouldn’t be doing this, and you can go for it anyway. A court might not convict you, but I hope you know that these are dick moves, too.

The pronouns in this essay thus far would suggest that I think only men can be coercive when it comes to sex, and we all know that’s patently untrue. We know male rape is a real issue, and that the stigma against victims can be excruciating. We know that women can lie and scheme their way into sex just as well as men. We know that insults to masculinity, epithets like “pussy,” or accusations of homosexuality can compel guys to do things they don’t want to do, just to prove a point. The toolbox may look different, but we know that girls can wield emotional manipulation and social coercion with expert dexterity.

All these strategies work more often than we’d like. I hope someday we can better teach teenagers (and adults) to call bullshit when they see it and to let the insults roll of their backs instead of eat at their self-esteem. But in the meantime, the fact that those manipulative moves might work doesn’t mean you should use them. These are tools for weak people, people for whom sex is a contest and winning matters. Sex can, and should, be fun. It can be playful, it can be casual, but it isn’t a game. Whether enacted by men or women, these bullshit strategies are not sexy, they are not cool, and—quaint as it may be—they are not very nice. There’s nothing wrong with a little push-pull, a little back-and-forth banter with a prospective partner, but assigning a winner and a loser to a sexual encounter sets us all back a couple decades.

◊♦◊

You should never feel like you’ve been convinced to have sex, and you should never feel like you’re doing the convincing. You want partners—one-night-stands or long-term relationships—who want to have sex with you as much as you want to have sex with them. The culturally established “no means no” is too low a bar. Only yes means yes. And I’m not talking about an “I guess we could…” or an “I don’t really care….” or an “Only if you really want to….” or a “Might as well…” I’m talking about an enthusiastic, excited, sustained “Yes!” Are those “yesses” less frequent than the non-committal, hesitant “not-nos?” Yeah, they are, but it’s worth it to know that the people you’re fooling around with really want to fool around with you, too.

Alcohol clouds everyone’s decision-making abilities, but it doesn’t make us deaf. Even at frat row, bar crawls, or crowded house parties, you need to listen for that “Yes!” And you need to be saying it too! If you’re a “Yes!” and your partner is a “Yes!”, then I revert to my original advice: be safe, have fun. Consent is not a traditionally sexy concept, but I absolutely guarantee you that two enthusiastic, excited, sustained “yesses” is what it’s all about.

Love,

Your big sister,

Emily

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10 thoughts on “The Good Men Project

  1. I’ll elaborate more on why I put the second link down. I think the first link is to an extent a further demonization of stereotypical male behavior and actions, whereas the second one admits that it was not healthy for both parties “The thing is—when I think about how important a clear, conscious “yes” is—I also know how difficult I made it for guys. I was handing them a “yes” on a silver platter the moment I walked in a room. I want to make this perfectly clear: I was not the only victim here. Sending confusing signals, saying “yes”, and then “no”, using sex not just as a release but as a form of therapy, convincing myself I was falling in love with guys—guys I didn’t even know—so that I could justify wanting sex with them. None of that was good. Not for me. Nor for men.”

    I implicitly agree with this statement, and I’m starting to get fed up with the near constant “let’s blame everything on men” attitude.

  2. Another brilliant link from The Good Man project:
    http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/knight-in-shining-armor-syndrome/
    This quotation really stuck with me:

    “Recently, when I learned about the feminist concept of “rape culture,” it didn’t sit right with me. OK, that’s a lie, it really pissed me off. Now, I’m not denying that there are social factors that lead to a downplay or even blame of rape victims. I agree that what it describes it’s a real phenomenon and a problem.

    What I hate is the term itself: “rape culture.” It implicates every man as an accessory to some rape, somewhere, for no other reason than that he’s breathing and has a dick. If you’re male, despite your best deeds or intentions, you were born guilty. It’s offensive, and dare I say misandrist. What about all of the times I stepped in and shielded my female friends from those inappropriate advances? What about all of the girls I called at night to make sure they got home safe? What about all of those drunk frat guys I dragged out of that bar that summer, threatening to hit me and fight me, for no other reason than some girl—a perfect stranger, no less—came to me and requested I do so?”

    Look, I spend my Saturday nights taking care of my friends (male and female). Whenever I see one of them going off with a partner they don’t know I quiz them left and right, and make sure they are in full control and know what they’re doing (and yes, I’ve had friends walk out on me for good more than once). The bit about men being “protectors” stuck with me too. I’m telling you, the only times in my life that I’ve actively looked to start a fight were similar circumstances. My blood boils when I am near parties. There comes a point when I refuse to be implicated. I do my best stop it, short of physically preventing my friends from hooking up with people, and I refuse to be grouped into a “category of males.”

  3. Here’s another quote from that website that I think responds to your concerns well:

    “Is it frustrating to be viewed with suspicion merely because of one’s sex? Heck yes. (Is it frustrating to be viewed as a sexual object merely because one is young and female? Ask around.) Men ought to be angry that they need to “prove their harmlessness.” Indeed, they ought to be enraged! But our anger is rightly directed not at women who have been the victims (individually and collectively) of predatory males, but at those men who have “poisoned the well” for everyone else. Rather than demand that women “smile more” or “trust more” or “just know that I’m a good guy,” men need to channel their frustration at being “pre-judged” into a commitment to end what it is that causes women’s suspicion in the first place.”

    It’s from this link:
    http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/in-rape-culture-all-men-are-guilty-until-proven-innocent/

    • I actually already saw that, and frankly, I find that article misandrist and sexist to the extreme. I share the concerns of most of the commentators. The writ of “guilty until proven innocent” was made illegal under the Geneva convention and to impose it on half of the world ridiculous. It is the exact counterpart to slut shaming — male shaming, and if slut-shaming is wrong, then so is this.

  4. Alright, I’m sorry for leaving so many replies, but this one, finally, really, truly hit the nail on the head.
    “Though I’ll do my best to combat all forms of crimes against women I’ll not accept personal responsibility for any act I myself did not commit.”
    http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/feminism-vs-men-is-not-a-zero-sum-game/

    I hate any and all acts of sexual assault, violence and rape against anyone, male and female. But I will not feel guilty for being born. It’s that simple. I hope you all see where I’m coming from.

    • I completely see where you’re coming from, but I also find it frustrating to be faced with this response time and time again. The vast majority of men are decent, caring people who would never rape or abuse anyone. I know that, and am surrounded by amazing men that I’m thankful to call my friends and peers. Like you. But the fact still remains that the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed by men – and they’re not creepy men skulking in dark alleyways, or dudes in trench coats with the word “rapist” tattooed on their foreheads. They’re regular-looking guys at a party, in my class, on the street, in the grocery checkout. They could be anyone. And because women are a) not psychic and thus can’t tell that someone’s safe right off the bat, and b) raised in a culture where we are at risk, we have to be on our guard.

      It’s not about making you feel bad. It’s about surviving.

      For me, if fighting rape culture is about making dudes feel guilty, we’re doing it wrong. It should be about making sexual violence a thing of the past, period. That’s what I work toward. And the more men working together with women on this, the more we can all feel safer.

  5. I would disagree with the idea that he is “the best guy on that blog.” His position is sexist and mysandric. He carelessly generalizes all men, something which I will not stand for. As another poster said, “For me, if fighting rape culture is about making dudes feel guilty, we’re doing it wrong.” He literally says “All men are guilty.” Are we not supposed to feel guilty after someone says we are guilty of rape? The idea that men can be lumped into one group is as demeaning as the idea that women can be lumped into one group. To buy into his ideology is to hold a double-standard.

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