6 things black men can do to stop perpetuating rape culture
i didn’t even know what rape culture was until about a week ago. it wasn’t something i talked about. i didn’t read about it anywhere. i never even gave it much thought. why? because i am not a rapist. the people i surround myself with are not rapists. so in my mind, rape culture had nothing to do with me.
but now i see that i was wrong in that assumption.
rape culture, by definition, is an “environment in which rape and sexual violence are normalized and excused in both the media and pop culture. it is perpetuated though the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, which ultimately creates a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”
so while i’m not a rapist, i have perpetuated the aforementioned attitudes and behaviors that are associated with rape culture — yikes. and through open dialogue with my friends, male and female, about the topic, i’ve become a little more informed about rape culture, it’s effects on all those involved and the role i play in either sustaining or eliminating it as a black man.
sure. some, if not all of what you read here is probably applicable to all men, not just black men. but as a black man who makes sure his arms are visible whenever a woman gets on the elevator, walks across the street to save women the trouble of clutching their purses or experiencing a shot of anxiety on the sidewalk, and avoids frowning so i don’t appear to be a threat in most cases, i thought it most appropriate to speak on the topic from the black male perspective because…well… that’s who i am.
but any-who, here are some things black men can do to stop perpetuating rape culture. maybe this list will spark some much needed dialogue and more importantly, some much needed action ‘cause we gotta do better. real talk.
6). have a clear understanding of what consent means.
i believe that for most things in life, people do better when they know better. and if they know better and aren’t doing better, it’s because they actually don’t have as much of an understanding of a topic as they thought. or they’re incredibly stubborn and unwilling to change their behavior. either way, the more you know, the more you grow. so what is consent?
consent, in a sexual sense, is defined as voluntary permission or agreement for something to happen (i.e. sexual activity). and while this may seem very straight-forward, there’s actually a lot of gray area around the subject. is there such a thing as implied consent? does consent have to be verbal?
as far as i know, ain’t no law in the u.s. that accepts implied consent as an excuse for rape. and although it’s not the most glamorous thing to think about, it’s probably best that as men (and especially as Black men), we hear the word “yes” before we hop to it. why? because silence does not mean consent and the absence of no does not mean yes.
it’s something that is freely given voluntarily and without manipulation. so if the answer was ‘no’ the first time you asked, it’s not your job to take that as a challenge and keep asking until you pressure them into consent. that’s not how it works. it doesn’t matter what their body is saying, it’s all about that mouth (pun intended). and even if they did give consent without pressure, it can be revoked at any time because consent is definitely reversible. don’t tweak and get yourself into a jam ‘cause you ain’t wanna pull out.
5). look, but don’t touch.
while the same is true for all women, the black woman is certainly something to be treasured. without her, the world would cease to exist — and we don’t have the right to touch her without her permission. i can’t tell you how many women i know who absolutely hate when men grab their waist, touch their shoulders, fix their clothes, grab their butt. all of it. it’s high key unacceptable and hella intrusive. and the sad part is, more often than not, the men that are doing these things are brothers they don’t even know because we’ve normalized the objectification of women so much. it’s oc.
you wanna get to know her? that’s cool. you ain’t gotta touch her. you wanna let her know she’s beautiful? do you. don’t touch her without her permission, though. always be respectful of her body and her space.
4). hold your boys accountable.
there’s a saying that goes, “if you choose to remain neutral in times of injustice, you’ve chosen the side of the oppressor.” well, it’s true. if you see a woman being harassed by one of your boys, it’s your responsibility to get him together. point, blank, period. and you can save the “we grown”, “we’re all adults”, “i’m not his dad”, and the “he’s just drunk/high right now”, speech. it’s all an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for the role you played as a silent bystander and perpetuator of the issue. if ya boy is always acting in a way that isn’t consistent with how you want others to perceive you, it’s time you did something about that. just don’t hold them to a higher standard than the one you have for yourself. ‘cause that’s hypocritical, low key.
3). be mindful of what comes out of your mouth.
part of holding those around you accountable requires that you do the same for yourself. that means think before you speak — chill out on the sexually explicit jokes and language that objectifies women and portrays them as objects meant to satisfy and entertain us. it’s not cool and quite frankly, it’s unbecoming.
2). talk to the women around you.
you remember when kanye was doing that one interview with sway? you know the one. when he was like, “you ain’t got the answers, sway. i been doing this longer than you.” i feel like that’s how women be looking at us when we make ill-informed remarks about rape culture, gendered norms, or the female experience. i know what i’m about to say is a hard concept to grasp — for some it’s more difficult than others — but we don’t have all the answers, brothers. we don’t know it all. sometimes, it’s good to just sit down and listen.
some of my most profound learning moments about rape culture have happened thanks to conversations with the women in my life. they’re always enlightening me with their honesty and transparency and i believe it has a lot to do with how I approach the conversation. i don’t approach it as an elitist — or like they owe me something — because i’m not and they don’t. i just hit them with the “hey, what are your thoughts on blah blah blah? because i felt like woo woo woo and i’m just tryna see if i’m tripping or speaking from a place of privilege.” it’s a simple concept, yet very beneficial.
1). realize your privilege.
if i’m being honest, i didn’t really understand this notion at first. because as a Black man in amerikka, “privilege” ain’t one of the first words that comes to mind when i think about my life’s experience. period. but i had to learn there is such a thing as male privilege — and that privilege provides me with social, economic and political advantages based solely on the fact that i’m a man. and like most of the Black men around me, it’s one of those inherent things i have but don’t think about often because it’s merely a part of my experience.
i don’t have to think about how far my car will be parked from the venue and how far i’ll have to walk by myself.
i don’t worry about whether or not my attire will evoke the “wrong” message.
i ain’t concerned about having to go places by myself.
i rarely feel like my safety is at risk.
and it’s a luxury that women don’t have. is it fair to us as Black men? no. is it our fault? no. but it is our responsibility to be more considerate of how we show up in a woman’s physical and mental space.