Quotable: Byron Hurt On Facing Sexual Assault

The following day, I attended a workshop about preventing gender violence, facilitated by Katz. There, he posed a question to all of the men in the room: “Men, what things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?”Not one man, including myself, could quickly answer the question. Finally, one man raised his hand and said, “Nothing.” Then Katz asked the women, “What things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?” Nearly all of the women in the room raised their hand. One by one, each woman testified:

“I don’t make eye contact with men when I walk down the street,” said one.
“I don’t put my drink down at parties,” said another.
“I use the buddy system when I go to parties.”
“I cross the street when I see a group of guys walking in my direction.”
“I use my keys as a potential weapon.”

“I carry mace or pepper spray.”
“I watch what I wear.”

- From “Why I Am A Black Male Feminist”

Image courtesy of The Root

  • Lyonside

    I get that, but there is a tendency when discussing something that negatively impacts mostly women for tyhere to be a “it affects men too!” cry.. which often derails and silences. Not saying you were trying to do that, but that’s why I commented. In Shakesville parlance , its called “what about the mennnnnzzzzz!!!111!!”…

  • Anonymous

    I’m certain gay men and male children have a lot more to worry about than the typical heterosexual man worrying about going to prison. It recent news to me how young gay males entering those gay bars can find themselves in a dangerous situation with the older guys trying to prey on them. And of course I have concern for all sex workers, which includes gay and transgender persons. And the issue of domestic abuse in gay and lesbian couplings is still not often discussed.

    But I don’t want to downplay the reality that prison rape is very much tolerated in our country and even lauded as a proper punishment. It’s wrong. It definitely intersects with society’s view concerning rape of women and certain rape myths used to justify those rapes. Essentially, one rape myth I’ve gathered from some people’s acceptance of prison rape is that by going to jail you’re just “asking for it.”

    But I believe in treating people with decency. Rape is not a punishment. It is a crime and should be treated as such. Prisoners should be protected and they do have rights.

    • Lyonside

      Just a note to counter the “gay male predator” vibe I got from your post: the vast majority of men who sexually abuse children identify as straight. Rape is a crime of violence, power, and opportunity, not sexual orientation.

  • Anonymous

    There’s a lot that you can do even if you do not individually rape women, children, and men yourself. For some who do commit rape there is the realization that you can easily get away with it and that generally you won’t have to do hard time for such a heinous and destructive crime.

    I recently learned that in some traditional native societies rape was a crime tantamount to murder. And typically you lost your life for a crime of that nature. I’m pretty sure that if men knew they would have to die for raping people there would be much less rape in this society. B/c we would mean serious business.

    You can stop being a bystander. If you see something happening tell someone! Do something! Call the police!

    If you see your friends espousing misogynistic and harmful views speak up!

    Offer to escort your female friends to their cars or be on the lookout for women at closed events.

    I think the whole point of this exercise was for the men in the room to realize how much work women do just to feel safe and somehow equal to men. But the situation isn’t equal. For most women, there is the realization that we are living in societies policed by men who at the drop of the hat could do us serious harm and not even feel the weight of responsibility for their actions.

    In many situations our pain and suffering is ignored or downplayed. It is erased. It is on us to get back to a state of normalcy with sometimes very little support. Personally, as a rape survivor so many things trigger me now. Before, I could more easily normalize the sacrifices I made just to feel safe outside of my bedroom. Now it’s a more agonizing process just to spend time with other people outside of my house. I’ve never felt safe. And I hate it.

  • miga

    You know, this actually blew my mind- the fact that men (that anybody, really) can go throughout life without worrying about sexual assault.

  • Fauiza

    yes! i know men who have done it. we’re in this together…

  • Brandon

    True… but this certainly isn’t something that I think about every single day.

  • blackchild

    Men don’t worry about sexual assault but we do worry about assault and most of us take the same precautions the ladies do.

  • BSK

    Thanks Lyonside (and others) for weighing in.

    With regards to your second paragraph, do you think that our vocabulary gets in the way? As you said, many men would never consider themselves to be rapists or perpetrators of sexual assault. So many of us might view programs targeted at preventing rape or sexual assault as being for other people. I’m not saying we should sugar coat what is wrong and disturbing behavior. But the common understanding of rape is different than what you described here. So people may not be willing or able to confront the role they play in the ongoing culture of rape and sexual assault because they are essentially speaking a different language. Obviously, education is key. But I do think it is going to be hard reaching people if the they immediately feel as if they are being accused of a truly vile act.

  • BSK

    Jay-
    Because we are the ones that commit something like 90+% of all sexual assaults and rape?

    And I think Jen (and others) were getting at far more than preventing the act of rape from happening. I trust that most men would intervene if they stumbled upon a woman being raped. The bigger issue is how we can influence a culture that still views women as sexual objects expected to bend to the whim of men. You might never rape a woman. You might intervene physically if you saw a rape occur. But would you call a buddy out whose approach to meeting girls is to buy them drink after drink?

  • Soulsentwined

    Most of the steps women are trained to take to protect themselves are aimed at attacks by strangers in dark alleys. Most women are assaulted by people they know so I doubt these steps put much of a dent in the likelihood of assault.

    • Anonymous

      Exactly. How do you protect yourself from the people that you know and love? The people who have the most access to you . . .

      Sometimes your only defense is to let him have it so you don’t get hurt. So he’ll just go away.

  • Lyonside

    I noted that too in the piece -thanks for highlighting it. I could have added about 10 more, including ideas from the POV of the glorified bouncer that I usually am whenever my friends and I go to a club or concert. Hell, I’ve even been a straight girl’s pretend girlfriend to keep away a fool who was harassing her.

  • http://crossingtheprairie.blogspot.com Jenn

    That speaks volumes, now doesn’t it?

    • Anonymous

      It reminds me of a study I learned about in my linguistics course. Almost the exact same response as far as who offered answers. Anyway, in the study boys and girls were asked in an elementary school class what were the benefits of being the opposite gender/sex. Girls could give you a laundry list of ideas as to why being a boy would be so great. The boys could not think of a thing.

      So trust and believe kids learn early. This kind of conditioning starts early.

  • http://andtheycalledmefreak.blogspot.com Kristin Craiglai

    The real question of course is, “Men, what do you do to ensure that you don’t contribute to the rape culture?”