Since far too many assaults are perpetrated by men against women, children, and other men, when will men start taking a stand against violence? I watched my father beat my brother. My father was beaten himself by his father when he didn’t obey his parent’s wishes.
On television, you get a constant stream of “entertainment with shows glamorizing brutality and men punching each other in the face if they don’t like something. When does it end? Men are the strongest influencers on other men’s behaviors, so I would like to see non-violent men step up to this issue and start voicing their opinion.
To do this, it might be best to put the issue in the context of men being “prevention partners” rather than blaming them for the problem of rape and sexual assault.1 Studies show that two barriers to effective prevention by men are the notions that the problem of sexual assault is a “women’s problem” and the failure of most men to intervene with other men.
Another issue is how men perceive and define sexual assault. Coercive behaviors are known to exist in a continuum ranging from verbal pressure to implied threats of force, actual force and/or rape. Men need to be made aware of the fact that there are even more subtle forms of coercion that operate in interpersonal relationships ranging from verbal to physical and from unintentional to intentional threats between partners.
The important lesson to be learned is that the basis of all healthy relationships is the value placed on equality of choice and action by both partners—not a relationship based on one person calling all the shots and the other made to conform or suffer the consequences.
It is time for non-violent men to move from passive silence (which could be misinterpreted as support for violence) to actively opposing such behavior by intervening when inappropriate behavior occurs in their presence. This involves men questioning their assumptions about intimacy and consent and to consider the fact that men can be wrong about what sexual partners really want.2
There needs to be modeling of appropriate behavior (something entirely lacking in the media) so that men who were never shown by others the proper way to treat their partner can learn more respectful behavior. It boils down to men beginning to challenge how they have been socialized by their parents and society and to promote alternative ways of framing what it really means to be a man in a healthy relationship. That would be a good thing.
1 “Fostering Men’s Responsibility for Preventing Sexual Assault,” Preventing Intimate Partner Violence: Developmentally Appropriate Interventions Across the Lifespan, Washington, D.C., American Psychological Association, 2002