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Ernest Owens Headshot

Men, It's Our Moral Responsibility to Combat Rape Culture

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Here are five reasons why I fight against rape culture:

1) "No" means no, regardless of how the man may feel or interpret it. Consent is a clear and sober "yes."

2) The sexual history of a woman, whether past or present, is of no consequence to a man having the liberty to invade her body. In other words, if she might have said yes to a dozen men or more before you... her "no" to you does not warrant you to think otherwise.

3) No rape victim ever "asks for it." The only person doing so is the man who takes the liberty to decide for the victim he plans on raping.

4) Rape impacts everyone, regardless of if you are the direct victim or not. Family, friends, and future lovers will have to partially endure the painful distress associated with a rape victim long after the event happens.

5) More time should be spent educating men to be more mindful of possibly violating women's bodies rather than cautioning women to avoid such possible scenarios. Translation: stop victim blaming. Which is why all of us should be doing something to combat it.

Yes, I know this is hetero-normative. And yes, I am aware that I am focusing on male rape aggressors as opposed to the other way around. But as a black openly gay man who has seen many women in my community, campus, and beyond face hetero-dominate sexual assault, I am focused on addressing the culture surrounding that behavior because it impacts me as well.

Because these women are my sisters, home-girls, educators, mentors, employers, and will one day be my daughters and nieces.

If half of the human species are endangered sexually and psychologically in our society, it is not the responsibility of them to stand up against this blight alone. They not only need our help, but deserve it. Not just for their sake, but for ours.

Rape culture is not something we can just through under the radar like our failed attempt to act as if it does not exist. News flash: it does. In your community, town, and neighborhood. It affects those you would never imagine and often those who you see everyday.

Men, it's time we stop creating excuses as to why we don't stand up for a large contributor of our humanity. To be fair, it's not all our fault that society has given us norms that make it hard for us to do so.

Masculinity in our society is fragile and challenged more often than needed for too many of our impressionable young men. Such pressures are what have made many blindly go to such ridiculous lengths in defending their illusions of manhood through rape behavior.

Rape is about control, not about sex. It is about dominance, power, aggression and the pathetic ability to express this openly to one who falls vulnerable. It's more than just a disgusting act, but a testament to how far our understanding of gender and sexuality has faltered.

Instead of asking of how art thou our ladies fall victim to and doth protest too much to the denigration that comes from wicked men, we should instead be more nobler in their protection.

It is 2014 and we have yet to see a strong front of men take on the ugliness of rape and counter the chauvinism that invades our ability to think clearly. This is not their problem; it's a global problem. It's a disease that plagues all levels of race, class, and culture. And unlike many epidemics, the illness and cure is within us. Let's fight to invoke the latter.

It's simple. Let's stop ignoring rape culture's existence. Let's stop playing devil's advocate when dealing with victims. Let's stop putting institutions, fraternities, money, fame, businesses and tangible possessions above the due justice of those afflicted. Let's think about the world we want our future daughters, peers, nieces, and sons to have. Let's be the men we will one day want our daughters to date and the mentors we want our sons to look up to.

Let's be proactive and not blind to these issues because it is apart of us.

If you are willing to stand up for women, you will still be just as much of the man you aspire to be. You will be wiser because you see a reality outside of yours. You will be more compassionate because you can see the value in another's quality of life. You will be more humane because you are exercising your moral obligation to ensure the safety of your fellow being.

This is not a petty request. Men, we have a moral obligation and responsibility to combat rape culture head on. Since the beginning of civilization, women have had to endure the dark side of this reality for far too long. It's time to turn the light on and let the demons out.

The time to act is now.

Start making time to talk to women beyond your usual chat about frivolous matters, and sincerely ask them how they really feel. Be sure to call out blatant sexual harassment when you see it. Discourage your friends and peers from pursuing women who show know consensual interest in them. And please do not ignore the alert of possible rape in your atmosphere. Be active, supportive, respectful, and understanding of the victim and spend less time trying to avoid the matter.

Because that is the way you would want your sister or mother to be treated. And that victim shares the common day-to-day obstacles that they face as well.

In all honesty, rape is a cycle that will not go away until our relentless advocacy strengthens. It must be a united front. I am now asking all men: young, old, and in-between from all racial and social class lines to lean in for women.

For it is not enough to expect them to end rape culture alone when it takes two to consensually tangle for change.