Shaw: Men, start talking about rape culture and how to end it

Men need to end their cultural passivity regarding sexual violence in order to combat rape culture and create an atmosphere where hyper masculinity is no longer perpetuated.


Nichole Shaw, Opinion Columnist

Rape culture is a systemic problem that has plagued not only college campuses but the nation. Public visibility of sexual violence and rape culture has skyrocketed in the media with the #MeToo movement. Now that the problem has been spotlighted, it’s time to make changes, starting with conversations that need to take place with everyone’s friends and families.

While one in 14 men experience sexual assault or rape during college, 1 in 5 women do, according to the Rape Victim Advocacy Program. It’s clear women are more susceptible to sexual violence, and it’s imperative society and college communities actively implement methods to reduce these statistics, starting with eliminating the toxic culture that perpetuates the violence.

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RVAP reports sexual violence peaks during this time of the year, the first three months of the semester. And with fraternities being a site for hyper-masculinity to flourish, sexual violence by the males is a major concern — hyper-masculinity basically means that men exaggerate stereotypical behavior, aggression, and sexuality.

Numerous studies have shown that fraternity members are three times more likely to to commit rape than their non-greek peers.

The great thing is that toxic masculinity can be combated effectively with informed, educated conversations about rape culture and stopping sexual violence against women. In fact, UISG President Hira Mustafa is working on a project with several fraternities to mimic the viral post on Twitter that featured Ohio University fraternities supporting survivors and outlining what consent really means.

“We are looking at having the banners up the first week of November tentatively,” Mustafa wrote in an email. “There have been several chapters that are interested in participating.”

So, all hope is not lost. The real work begins with you and changing the mentality and understanding you have toward a culture that consistently perpetuates sexual violence. And this is not just a fraternity problem, it’s a cultural problem. Men: it’s OK to cry. It’s OK to feel insecure. It’s OK to talk about your feelings — you don’t have to feel pressured to embody a hyper-masculine identity, because it’s extremely harmful.

“There are different rituals we have to allow our young men to be emotional and to call brothers out and say, ‘I don’t like the way you talk to women,’ ” Interfraternity Council President Jason Pierce-Vasquez said.

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The concept of equating “scoring” with masculinity is toxic, because it associates sex, regardless of proper consent, with being cool and macho. In reality, you’re scary, violent, and inconsiderate of how your actions affect those around you. Pierce-Vazquez said the lessons that need to be learned about hyper-masculinity need to be relayed by parents. He knows that at a young age, he was taught this, but some of his brothers weren’t. Even so, the Interfraternity Council requires trainings with RVAP as well as meetings with the Iowa City police and the UI police that address bystander intervention and sexual violence.

“Our goal as the Interfraternity Council is to have ongoing conversations about sexual assault and toxic masculinity so it’s at the forefront of young males’ minds,” Pierce-Vasquez said.

Use your male privilege to speak up and stop sexual violence whenever you see it. Speaking up doesn’t make you a bad friend for taking your friend’s chance of a sexual “conquest” away. It makes you a hero for saving someone from irreparable damage and pain for the rest of her life.

The change starts in you. It’s no longer OK to be passive. It’s time to speak up and call out sexual assault before it ever happens. Intervene.