These were the last few lines of the rape campaign ad that featured Charlize Theron some years ago. Today, rape is back in the news and many women are lamenting these same sentiments. Questions are being asked, where are men in all of this rape pandemonium? Why are they not saying anything? Why aren’t they doing anything?
“…and perhaps worst of all is that the rest of the men in South Africa seem to think that rape, isn’t their problem. It’s not that easy to say what the men in South Africa are like, because there seems to be so few of them out there.”
I will start by saying that I’m not going to speak as an expert on male behavior or as a representative of the male species. I am not going to give justifications nor solutions. I’m just going to give my opinion as a normal guy.
What I would like ladies to know that as much as men don’t readily talk to you about rape or women abuse as a social issue, even in our own circles, it is not a popular topic. The conversation doesn’t go far beyond the headline and sub-heading. We might share a few horror stories about “this guy I know…” but not much else after. There are a couple of issues that contribute to rape not being normal discourse during half-time on derby day.
As men, we are socialized to be protectors and providers. We are the “physical” strength of society. But these “abilities” are preventative in nature. We are supposed to prevent bad things from happening. To protect is a preemptive act. So in our upbringing, not much is given by way of what to do after the fact. Most men respond with almost the same words when the question of a loved one being raped or abused comes up, “someone will die!” However, the reality is that very few rapists are killed by the father, brother, friend, or boyfriend of the victim. Sometimes, the police catch the guy before “the man” can get to him. Other times, the rapist is never found. Other times, a man is just not capable of taking a life. Very few men will “enjoy” the satisfaction of f*n a guy up for touching he’s woman. We are very ill-equipped to deal with the physiological aftermath of someone we know getting raped. We have no idea what to do. Our strong hands cannot reach inside our women to rip out the pain. We can stop their tears from falling. As men, so much of who we are is tied up in our ability to provide and protect that, failure to do such renders one utterly useless as a living being. So we avoid talking about it. We avoid having to answer the question, “what if you can’t kill the guy?” because we believe that is a battle we are incapable of fighting.
“I know this guy” who killed himself after his wife was raped in front of him during a robbery in their house.
Anene Booysen’s brutal rape reinvigorated many feminists and women in general on social networks, social circles columns’ such decry at the lack of male voices during what is deemed a crisis of women and child abuse. Stop Rape campaigns kicked off. As men, we sang along to these campaigns like Lady Smith Black Mambazo. We all agreed that rape is an inhuman act and has to stop. Yet, subconsciously, most of us hit a snag. “Yes, rape is evil and wrong and it must stop! But…eer…how do I stop it? I mean, I don’t know any rapists, child molesters or woman bashers. Or at least I think I don’t. All guys I know treat their women and children well, as far as I know. So…how do I do this beyond just talking about it?” So we avoid talking about it. We avoid facing the fact that we don’t know what to do.
Another element in this equation is the sense of shame. Shame that it is a man just like me who raped a young girl, slit throat, cut her stomach open, and left her for dead. We don’t know what makes a man do this, at times, to his own child. Society talks about “monsters” doing horrible things to women and children. Reality sobers us to the fact there are no monsters. Just men who choose to do the unthinkable. Some women think that the question of this act can be asked in the same breath as “why do men cheat?” Whereas the latter is debatable, the former is something else altogether. So we avoid talking about it. We avoid facing the fact that we don’t have any answers. Much less reassuring ones that will comfort you by saying “this will never happen to you, I promise”
The saddest part of all this is that our avoidance does very little. Also, it is avoidable in that, most of the time, it doesn’t physically happen to us. It’s like a man watching his woman going through the anguish of childbirth and there’s nothing he can do. We know very well that we cannot even begin to comprehend the damage rape causes. We are defeated by the fact that we don’t know where to go to find this rape thing and kill it with our bare hands, for good. At the end of the day, men are not the victims. Men are the perpetrators. A fact that proves that we should be able to do more about this issue than women. Perhaps the best place to start is to treat those in our care with love, respect, and compassion. Then, we can only hope that, if the unthinkable happens, we will be given the opportunity to be man enough.