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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Football, Women, and “Cat Calls”

My girlfriend went to a Kansas City Chiefs football game a few weeks ago. She loves going to the games and seeing all the people dressed in Chief’s red, experiencing the love and passion this town has for its football team.

On this particular day, she decided to bring her kids. She has three - two boys (14 and 12) and a girl (9). She has recently divorced and was longing to partake in some more “family bonding time”. She looked forward to showing her kids how much fun a game could be at Arrowhead Stadium, with all the tailgating and camaraderie.

Now, I’ll preface this with – my girlfriend is very attractive. She’s outwardly a person most would notice. Secondly, like most women, my girlfriend believes that women need to be very “careful” about the clothing one chooses to wear in certain situations. She holds onto the popular and much believed myth that if a woman wears certain things – she is communicating a desire to be approached or looked at…gawked at even. So on this day, she purposely wore a turtle neck top and jeans. She dressed conservative for a reason. She went to the game with a girl-friend of hers and her son. This other gal is also an outwardly attractive gal.

The day was supposed to be fun. It was a day she invested in her kids – bought tickets from a friend, paid for parking, food, drinks, etc. And if you go to games, you know this is not a small investment for most. The cost was over $300 for sure on this particular day. For her – it was worth every penny to have some bonding time with her kids and watch her beloved Chiefs.

After they parked their car, the six of them made their way to the stadium through the various Chief’s tailgaters. Both gals, even as they walked hand-in-hand with their young children became aware that with each passing tailgate, they were being gawked at. Starred at in a way that was evident they were being looked at for their various parts more than anything else. As they got closer to Arrowhead, a few different men decided to make comments. “You are a MILF!” one person shouted. “Man – look at those….very nice!” another man would comment as they passed his tailgate, “…show ‘em!” another person shouted at them from a distance.

My girlfriend’s mood changed. Her kids looked at her as if she had done something wrong. She kept walking….up to the Arrowhead entrance. Once in, the various comments got even more forward. Men who would pass by and look directly at their breasts saying things like “wow”, “what are you doing after the game”, “I could get lost in those!” My girlfriend was walking with her head down now, trying not to make eye-contact with anyone who passed by. As they all arrived at their seats, there was a fairly large contingent of men sitting directly in front of them who all immediately took notice and decided it was okay to chime in as well. They looked back and starred – saying in full volume “what a MILF!” “THOSE are tremendous”, “nice cans!” Thorough the game, one or more of them would turn around and stare at my girlfriend and her friend. Looking at each of them up and down – as if they were on display.The comments got more forward and crude as the game ensued …and the more alcohol was consumed.

The kid’s eyes told my girlfriend all she needed to know. The day was ruined. It was going to be a day off one verbal sexual comment (assault) after the next. A day where her kids looked at her, fully knowing what the term “MILF” meant and wonder…why did she bring them to the game? My girlfriend felt awful – she felt like she should have known better – taking the blame for thinking a Chiefs game would be a good “family event”. She grabbed her 9-year old daughter and put her on her lap, to try and further hide her breasts from any onlookers. It wasn’t fun, the day was a disaster. More comments would come and even a few propositions – even as her children flanked both her sides.

The term MILF comes from the movie “American Pie” and if you’re not familiar with it - it means MOM I’D LIKE to F***. The term seems to have made its way into an acceptable slang term – replacing terms like “Fox”, etc.

Guys – when exactly did this behavior become okay? Why is it that attending pro football games is now a pass for saying whatever you want and treating pretty women with super-sized masculine and abusive acts? How would you feel if someone walked directly up to your Mom and said they’d like to fuck her? What if someone did that to your daughter? Your Sister, Cousin, Grandmother, Girlfriend, Wife? How would that make you feel? When did it become okay to stare women’s breasts and then make comments about them for all to hear? When did “show your ....” become an acceptable chant? Why is it funny to say such ludicrous things even if it’s in jest? Why would you let your buddy do this even if you don’t engage in this kind of over-zealous masculine chest-thumping yourself? Why is this behavior becoming standardized for pro football venues? And if you think I’m over-reacting, consider this article…"Halftime Ritual" from the New York Times.

It’s time for good guys to take a true stand and make this kind of behavior “not cool”. Drunk or not, people need to understand how damaging this kind of behavior is. We also need to wake up and see how prevalent this kind of activity is – this is just one example, I have heard hundreds more and it makes me sick. Is it too much to ask that we don’t start taking the kinds of things we see on television and start normalizing them into our society? Is it too much to ask that an attractive gal could go to a Chiefs game and not be assaulted with one crude comment after the next – WITH HER KIDS NO LESS?!

Come on guys – wake the f*** up!

Matt Sharples

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Big “Pictionary”: One Female’s Perspective

When I think about what I want to say in a blog designed to get men active in the fight to end sexual violence, I find myself stumped. Not because I have nothing to say, but because I don’t know how to say it.

So, let me start with this: I have been blessed to have had some wonderful men in my life- kind, caring, generous, good fathers, husbands and friends. Men who would never dream of “taking advantage” of a woman or girl, just because the opportunity arises. Men who think rape is despicable and who would never physically harm a woman or girl. These men offer their female friend or acquaintance a ride home or a place to sleep if she’s had a bit too much to drink. They do this NOT to “get some”, but to actually make sure she is safe for the night.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is that these men live in a world filled with excuses to objectify, degrade, make fun of, think less of, not take seriously….the women they exist with. They live in a world were this type of thinking is rewarded, and if they want to thrive in the world they live in (or so it may seem) they are to encourage, applaud, laugh, or at the very least just stay silent.

Let me give an example. I have several friends who are men. I’ve known them for years. We play co-ed sports together, we socialize, celebrate birthdays, have bar-be-ques, etc. I would consider these guys, in general, good guys, but often find myself picking my battles around some of them when it comes to their sexist jokes and derogatory or sexual comments about other women (most frequently having to do with her appearance).

One evening a female friend of ours hosted a bar-be-que at her condo. There were about 25 people there, five or six of whom were female, the rest of the group was made up men, a few of which were my friends and the rest were friends of friends. As the night progressed the group decided to play Pictionary, which was fun for awhile until one of the guys, who was actually a friend of mine, decided to draw a picture of what turned out to be a “donkey punch”. There was an immediate roar of laughter and energy from the crowd when the guys figured out what he was drawing. Like some of you reading this, I had never heard of a donkey punch. Apparently, this sexual act, which these guys (some my friends) were so excited about, is a very violent and degrading act. It involves punching a woman in the back of her head to make her pass out in order to increase the climax for him.

From this point on, the guys were practically fighting to take their turn at the drawing board, to illustrate other “funny” sex acts that were listed in a recent Maxim magazine. These acts involved urinating on a woman, putting feces on her face…and the list goes on.

This was the first time I have ever felt unsafe around men who were supposed to be my friends. I turned to one of them, whom I was most disappointed that he was laughing, and his response to me was “come on, Nicole, you don’t think I’d ever do any of these things”. My response was “How would I know by the way you’re laughing?” I asked him if he could guarantee me the rest of these men wouldn’t do such things. He didn’t respond. I mean if they are so excited about these images and are encouraging it to continue, how do I know that these men aren’t violent towards the women they are with? If they could be this disrespectful to women, in the presence of women, in the HOME of a woman, how do I know they won’t act on it?

When I started to say anything to the group, then I was just “that girl” who can’t take a joke, who needs to relax. Not ONE man acknowledged that this was, at the very least, disrespectful to the women in the room. The women who are supposed to be their friends.

I was afraid of the energy in the room. I was afraid because I knew that I was out numbered, that every woman in the room was out numbered by 4 to 1. I was afraid of my friends and, even more so, their friends.

And then I was PISSED that I had to feel this way at all. I WAS WITH FRIENDS! People who are supposed to take care of each other. People who you are supposed to feel the safest with.

I was pissed because that’s when I realized just how easy it is for sexual assaults to happen. It’s because of attitudes like these that cheer on sexual violence as a joke. It’s because the draw to join in on this “bonding” experience was apparently too strong for any of the men in the room to resist. I was scared and pissed because if one or more of these men decided to find a way to get one of the females, myself included, isolated and rape her, then she would be deemed at fault. “She should have known it wasn’t safe.”, “What did she have that many guys in her house for?”, “Why would she go to a party with mostly guys?”, “She drank some alcohol that night” “She put herself in that situation”.

And then I got sad. Luckily, these men did not sexually assault anyone at this party…but they did successfully reduce the women in the room to an inanimate object that they could fashion to look like and endure whatever they wanted on the pages of the Pictionary board. They did successfully instill fear, distrust and a loss of respect for the very men that I called friends.

I got sad because the voices of the women in the room were silenced. The voices of the women were silenced so much so that I saw at least one laughing right along. I was the only one trying to speak out, and I was dismissed.

I was sad because I know some of these men left to go out and proceed to sexually harass every woman who happened to cross their path. They did it just because they can and because there’s a social reward for doing so. I know. I witness it first hand just about every day.

I was sad because, though I believe my friends and most of the other men would not do these things they were illustrating, I knew that more than likely there were men in the room who just might if they had the chance. They just might, and now they have the support and encouragement from my friends to do so.

I was sad for the loss of respect I previously had for these men and for the loss of perceived respect I thought they had for me. In writing this blog, I realize that I have since never attempted to bring this up to the two men I was closest to. I imagine if I talked to them one on one, outside of the power of the group, that they would listen and possibly rethink their behavior. I guess, because no one seemed to care that night, I never thought to try.

I continue to have men in my life who I admire. Men who do speak up, who don’t join in when other men are degrading or objectifying women. Men who understand the stake they have in challenging these attitudes and behaviors. Like me, they sometimes have to choose their battles, but they know that they have the power to do something. They can remove the social reward for these things and make respect for women and each other the new norm. The bottom line is that I should NOT have to assume that I’m not safe with my friends, just because they are men! That’s not okay for my sake or for the sake of the men I care about…The men who Man Up!

Man Up! is asking men to take action, to remove the social reward for degrading, harassing and objectifying women.

Nicole Littler
MOCSA Director of Community Services & Evaluation

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Don’t blame it on her clothes!

I was at lunch today with a long time friend and the conversation turned to my blog about the girl who was raped by her former boyfriend. (Please reference my previous entry for the story). My friend commented that his niece was date raped, sexually assaulted by a boy whom she was ‘group dating.’ They began their relationship by hanging out together with a group of friends and when they went on a solo date, ended up at his place and that was when things went wrong. There was no alcohol involved and it was a casual friendship up to this point. He took her to his apartment to see ‘his place’ and when they arrived her boyfriend sexually assaulted her. It was a sad story and because of it, his niece and her family still struggle with the life changing incident.

My friend said something in his story that I was shocked to hear. He said that in seeking spiritual guidance and reflecting on the incident, the minister suggested that maybe his niece was to blame. Maybe it was her attire or maybe the fact that she went to his apartment was the ‘unsaid’ agreement that she wanted sex.

I was flabbergasted by this comment and even more appalled that the myth exists that what a woman wears or the fact that she visits a man in his home is an agreement that she wants sex.

Let me digress but on point. In reflecting more on this misconception, I thought back on a previous event where I attended a Kenny Chesney concert. Behind me and my group of adult couple friends sat a mixed group of high school kids. The girls wore cowboy boots and short jean shorts or skirts. Yes I think they were short and even someone commented that extra material should be added to their skirt/shorts but if I were to ask the young women if they were inviting sex by what they wore, I know their responses would have been "no". They were trying to look fashionable, cool and they were having a fun time. That is why they were there. That is why they wore what they wore. So the notion that what a girl wears invites assault, invites rape, is twisted thinking. It places the blame exactly where it does not belong. The man rapes. What girls wear may show their attributes but it does not invite sex without consent.

The fact that spiritual counselors, adults, knowing people, try to place the blame on the assaulted and what they wear is wrong. Or to suggest that visiting a man in his home is an invitation to have sex is thinking out of the dark ages.

Men need to man-up for their actions. We need to tune-in that sex without consent is absolutely wrong. If some want to blame the provocative clothing then take on the fashion industry, take on Hollywood, but don’t blame the kids. The girls at the concert could have been in their underwear and though I’d give them the shirt off my back to cover them up, I’d say not one of them wants to be raped.

-Ken Mellard

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bystanders Must Stop Rapists

I listened today as a mother described her daughter's rape. She began by relating how her daughter got into a troubling relationship with a boy as an early teen, how her daughter was abused by the boyfriend, physically and verbally, how her daughter broke off the relationship, how her daughter dated a new guy who then became her boyfriend, how, when the new boyfriend broke it off, the old boyfriend lured her daughter to his home to 'help sort it out' and when she arrived the old boyfriend raped her while a friend of his watched.

As I listened to the account I felt my anguish grow for the girl, her parents, her brother and sister, and her friends. So too did my disgust grow for the rapist, the deviant, perverted rapist. But the boy I loathed most was the boy who watched and did nothing. He is the one I can't figure out. A rapist ends up in the penitentiary but what happens to the guy who hides and watches? Why do I despise this coward so much?

In a moment of self reflection I wonder if there is a piece of him in me. Like when I've turned a blind eye to the sexual antics of my male companions or when I’ve let slide the derogatory word or comment about women. When I’ve passed-on an email that degrades women to the point of being objects of sex and not human beings. When we, males, laugh and wink when a guy at a bar explains that he intends to get a woman drunk so he can have sex with her. These are all moments of weakness committed by the ‘innocent’ male bystander.

I do know that I loathed that young man because he did not have the guts to stand up and stop the rapist. It seems we, men, too often stand by with our hands in our pockets knowing that something might happen or does happen but our code says we shouldn’t say anything. Our code says we should laugh or worst case, we watch. We pat each other on the back while a guy's sister, another father's daughter, a mother's child becomes a victim of the big guy, the rapist, the man men don’t stand up to.

I felt the anguish of the mother today. I could see the hug she received from her daughter who once was a victim but who today has rebuilt, and constructed a new life. I also felt my anger toward the rapist and his buddy the onlooker, the ‘innocent’ bystander, the observer who did nothing. Was he a victim also? That guy needs to find his voice. He needs to stand. He needs to man-up as they say in sports and protect his corner of the world. We all need to man-up against men who rape.

I found in her story today another definition of heaven. Heaven would be knowing that a mother and a father never again have to relate a story like that about their child.

What can we do to stop the men who rape?

Ken Mellard

Attendee at the MOCSA Johnson County Fall Luncheon

Friday, September 28, 2007

The "B" word

Recently, I have been following the Isiah Thomas case in large part because I found myself fired up about what one ESPN radio host (Mike Tirico) said earlier this month about how “we all need to get over our sensitivities and deal with the fact that EVERY woman has been called a ‘bitch’ and it’s just a fact of life”. The host went on to explain how this word is not sexually harassing and that it is no more offensive to a woman than calling a man an “asshole”. Apparently, through this rant he was attempting to show his support of Thomas, who is being sued for sexual harassment, and much of the case has been made over Thomas’ verbal abuse of former Knicks' vice president, Anucha Brown Sanders. During his testimony in the case, Thomas reported that if he had overheard one of the white management calling a black woman a bitch it would have violated his code of conduct. But when asked how he would feel if a black man said it to a black woman he reported it would not bother him as much because he makes "a distinction" between the two.

I think it is interesting that he brings up race because in some senses he is putting the "B" word in its suitable context: calling a woman a bitch is more similar to making a racist comment than calling a man an “asshole”. Bitch is a dehumanizing term much like all racist comments and because one is comparing a woman to a female dog that is, in fact, making a sexist comment which by default is sexual harassment. I think the difficulty Tirico as well as Thomas (and most men, in general) have with understanding the harm of the word "bitch" is that we don’t realize that such terms fit into a larger context of attitudes, assumptions, behaviors, and beliefs that both support male dominance as well as what socially constructs the foundations of rape culture.

What do you think? Please vote in our poll on the right of the page and/or share a comment.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who’s the real “Vick”tim?

There has been a lot of debate recently surrounding the Michael Vick story about his dog abuse, but very little of it has centered around the fact that often there are athletes beat, abuse, assault, and sometimes kill the women in their lives. More so, the consequences for these actions pale in comparison to what Vick will be sentenced to for his dog-fighting business.

Now hear me out, I'm not condoning Vick's behavior but I am calling to attention the fact that there are several professional, college, and probably high school athletes that are brutalizing women in their lives and are not being punished as severely. One recent article entitled "Beat a Woman? Play on; Beat a dog? You're gone." by Jennifer Korbin writer for discusses the fact there have been many male athletes that have abused women in their lives and received nothing more than a proverbial slap on the wrist.

Which makes me wonder why we are so enraged that Vick beat and killed dogs all the while “looking the other way” when many more athletes harm women in their lives? How can we throw the book at Vick when some estimate that with the loss in salary for his suspension from NFL this year, Vick stands to lose over $100 million dollars and, yet, a domestic violence issue with NBA’s Ron Artest, amounted to him paying a mere $600 and a two game suspension? What is the message we are sending to the millions of youth that look up to professional athletes? Is it that women are valued less than dogs?

I’m reminded of some area college athletes who have abused women in their lives and how their Athletic Departments have overlooked their “indiscretions”. I could name several, but the one that really sticks out in my mind is the story of Lawrence Phillips, former Nebraska football player that was a standout running back during one of Hall of Fame Head Coach Tom Osborne’s final seasons. You can look up Phillips stats but basically he was well on the way toward being an All-American by his sophomore year and was in the running for the Heisman Trophy. Two weeks into his junior year, however, he got into an argument with his girl friend and the argument escalated with him physically assaulting her by dragging her down a stairwell by her hair. For this assault, Phillips received a mere two game suspension. His girlfriend was on scholarship to play basketball for Nebraska, she lost her scholarship during this period, and left Nebraska as she feared for her safety.

Coach Osborne and Nebraska’s Athletic Department took much scrutiny for the lackluster punishment. When asked about it, Coach justified his actions by reportedly saying that Phillips was better off with the team than without it. One press person took the questioning another step and asked Osborne if he would have reinstated Phillips had the Heisman Trophy contender beat up Osborne's daughter (for more on this story click here). In response, Osborne initially balked but later answered 'yes,' he would have allowed Phillips to play even if Lawrence had assaulted Osborne’s own daughter. Not the type of response one would expect from a man who formerly served as a congressman for the state of Nebraska.

Unfortunately, there are more stories like this one than like Vick’s out there and it is disturbing to consider how this affects women as well as the young athletes that worship these abusing, idolized, professionals. It is not the difference in fines and suspensions that I find as alarming as it is the attitudes within sports culture and by their fans that silently condone these violent behaviors toward women. With these attitudes they are not only implying that talent outweighs character, but also inconceivably suggesting that violence towards animals outweighs women "vick"tims of crime.

~David Belt

Saturday, August 25, 2007

How far we've come — How far to go

There's a new television drama out this summer. It's called MAD MEN. It's about the world of Madison Avenue in the 1960's. Being in advertising, the buzz about the show started early. I was reading about it in Ad Age and AdWeek months before its debut. And while I was very interested in the subject matter — Advertising — I didn't expect to be captivated by the show.

I am.

The story line follows the lives of a number of people in 1960 New York. The advertising stories are interesting, but the most fascinating aspect of the show is the attention to detail the director has show toward the period. The 1960 office environment was significantly different than today's workplace. I had heard stories of this type of behavior, but had never really experienced it.

In the show, women are treated as supplicants. They exist to serve their husbands and/or bosses (not managers, bosses). They are treated as sexual objects, existing to serve the men in their lives, to bear children and to take care of the household. Sexual comments abound at the office, as does smoking and drinking during business hours.

I entered the world of advertising in 1982, close to the end of the three-martini lunch and overt sexual comments. The world was rapidly moving toward political correctness, sexual harassment awareness was coming into vogue and drinking and driving was becoming taboo.

Having missed the 60's and 70's advertising world, I decided to ask some older friends what it was like to work during those years.

I first asked Jim, a former creative director I worked with at a previous agency. He laughed when I asked the question, "What was the sexual environment like in the agency business in the 1960's?"

Jim said, "Oh, it was wild. When clients came to town they expected us to have women join us for dinner. Sometimes it was our secretaries. Other times they were call girls. We just put it on our expense reports as entertainment."

I found myself at lunch a few days later with my friend, Landa. She began in the agency business in the 60's and had been watching MAD MEN for a couple of weeks. When I asked her if the office environment was really like what the show depicts, she said, "Oh honey, it was much worse than that. On my first day, one of the men in the office came up to me and asked, 'Do you know the difference between a hamburger and a blow job?' I said, 'No.' He responded, 'Want to go to lunch?'"

We have come a long way since 1960. But we still have a long way to go. The attitudes men have toward women have been around for centuries, and while many men have come to understand the importance of seeing women as equal in both personal and professional endeavors, many more men continue to perpetuate the myth that women are somehow less than men.

Man Up! is dedicated to helping men come to understand the long-term effects unintentional comments and actions have on women. It is our goal to help men understand that being silent when other men make inappropriate comments does nothing to stem the tide of sexual degradation that women feel every day.

MAD MEN gives us a glimpse of where we were 47 years ago. But it also makes me wonder how far we have really come.

Sam Meers
MOCSA Board Member
Member of the Man Up! committee

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rape is not “gray”

I recently told the staff coordinator for our Men Against Sexual Violence program that I would do a blog entry. I have been Executive Director at MOCSA for over 20 years, my career has been devoted to helping victims of violence, and I have a husband and a 25-year-old son whose values I admire.

I should have lots to say….and I do. I’m just a little boggled by all that’s evolved in recent years, and I’m not sure of the right message. There has always been the issue of “he said, she said”, but now a crime victim is called “the accuser”. The job of law enforcement is to establish that a crime has occurred, thus establishing victim status, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference when rape is the crime. There are judges who refuse to have the word rape used in the courtroom, despite the fact that an indictment has preceded the trial.

The September Cosmopolitan, has an article that coins the term “gray rape,” but proceeds to describe instances where the victim clearly said no. In one instance, the woman described how she had invited a friend to be her “platonic date” to a sorority function. Following that, they made out, but she said sex was off limits. He proceeded to force sex, and she said no. However, she blamed herself for not saying no forcefully enough.

What we at MOCSA and everyone who deals with sexual assault knows, is that victims blame themselves. Even if a stranger jumps out of the bushes, a victim will question whether she should have been walking in that area, whether she should have fought harder, etc., etc. We don’t need popular magazines coining phrases that discount victims or their experience.

Rape is not “gray”. Rape has devastating and long-term effects. Lives are changed. Clinical depression, suicide ideation and attempts, and coping through alcohol and substance use are just a few of the effects. One study revealed that 60% of marriages or long-term relationships ended within a year of a rape.

I applaud the men who are associated with MOCSA and similar organizations for committing to address this issue. It is a difficult issue, and I know of some who questioned and felt badly about actions that they were involved with earlier in their lives.

What I think about for these men is how we help victims. It is important to move beyond denial, acknowledge and grieve the violation, and regain a healthy and empowered approach to living.

The men who volunteer for MOCSA’s Man Up! committee have committed to reaching out to boys, young men and their peers to promote respect and positive communication. Typically, they are fathers of both boys and girls and recognize the importance of developing healthy relationships based on trust and mutual respect. This is clearly what our society needs.

-Palle M. Rilinger, Executive Director of MOCSA

Friday, August 17, 2007

Upcoming Related Community Event

Man Up! is proud to announce the following upcoming related community event:

* UMKC's AALo (African-American/Latino) Empowerment Summit on Friday and Saturday October 5th and 6th at UMKC Pierson Auditorium. Attendance at the Summit will be FREE for all participants. Michael Eric Dyson and Joe Hernandez-Kolski will be keynote speakers and discussing issues that are relevant to African-American and Latino male populations. For more information and to register please call 816-235-6060.

Friday, July 13, 2007

How I got here…

The question usually comes pretty quick…. “So - Matt, how did YOU get involved with MOCSA (Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault)?” The “YOU” part is typically emphasized because candidly, I just don’t look the part. First, I think I get the question because…well, I guess because I’m a man. Secondly, I probably get it because I look more like the dude you’d find riding a Harley without a helmet than a board representative of a non-profit that deals with sexual assault. I understand why I get it and the puzzled looks. But, the question usually invokes a blend of emotions that draws my gaze downward…

One emotion is sadness. I’m involved in MOCSA because my brother sexually molested some people very near and dear to me. It makes me sad to think about that – the how, the why, and what’s happened to his victims and their families, and my own family since his crimes. When it surfaced, I remember someone telling me that an “earthquake” was about to take place for me personally. And it did. I certainly can identify with the MOCSA logo where the first M is shaking like mad but the A is solid. I was very much an “M” when I first got involved with MOCSA. I’m an “A” now.

The second is shame – I’m ashamed because it took a terrible event like that for me to get involved in the first place. I’m ashamed because I never really understood how prevalent the issue of sexual assault is. How, many times, rape and/or sexual assault are just “swept under the rug”, not talked about, pushed down into the furthest recesses of a victim’s mind, etc. I’m also ashamed because I know I’ve taken part in some activities that are degrading to women and objectify them sexually. But - I know better now.

Almost every day, the media reminds us of another sexual assault that takes place or potentially might have taken place. Just recently a story broke about a Texas Assistant District Attorney who took his own life when he’d been exposed by Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series for approaching a minor for sex over the internet. The stories swirl from one headline to another – mostly focusing on such things as the “appropriateness” of such a show… there’s SO much missing.

Missed is the fact that 1 in 3 females and 1 in 7 males will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Missed is the fact that the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are never reported – only about 16% are. Missed is the fact that false reporting of sexual assault is an extreme oddity even though the media jumps on each incidence with a vengeance (think Duke Lacrosse). Missed is the fact that most sexual assaults are not committed by strangers lurking behind bushes but by someone you’d invite to a family dinner – 80% of the time. Missed is the fact that 97% of the time sexual assaults are committed by MEN!

Now all of the above stats really bother me but that last one….ugh!

I wonder if we, as a society, would let any other groups of people get a pass if they committed such a horrendous act 97 times out of a 100? I really don’t think we would. We’d be putting together case study after case study if women committed a particular crime 97% of the time.

So …where’s the outrage with men taking advantage of women and other men sexually? Why aren’t we fuming mad because instead of finding “boogey men” doing these crimes, we keep seeing that, time and time again, it’s the “average Joe’s”. The vast majority of perpetrators are right out of the fabric of our general society - fathers, brothers, cousins, uncles, attorneys, doctors, clergy, salesmen, coaches, “respected members of the community”.

The dominant male culture is simply off-kilter when it comes to this pervasive issue of sexual assault - and you know why? Because in my opinion, we as men, don’t want to really take a look at the other males we consider our brethren, the men that we would break bread with, and have an open, honest, and sometimes challenging dialog about sex, what consensual sex really is, and our attitudes towards women. More times than not, an all-male discussion involving sex will include two parts that easily can be portrayed as “the chase” and “the conquering”…sprinkled with as much bravado as possible. I know because I’ve proactively started these discussions and participated in them myself. But - I know better now.

Just today I perused Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” weblog and you know what people have posted time and time again asking Investigative Reporter/Host Chris Hansen? They post asking why he won’t go after “female predators” too. Like there’s an equally distributed population of male and female sexual assault predators out there. People also post to the website wanting to have Chris and his Dateline NBC show come to their cities to weed out all the “sickos”. Like somehow, there are just a few bad eggs that need be plucked from the basket and all will be well again.

And so - the last emotion I feel when someone asks me why I’m involved with MOCSA is anger. In fact – I’m SUPER-FANTASTICALLY-INCREDIBLY pissed!

I’m pissed because for every sexually assaulted woman there are FIVE more who’ve never reported a thing (only 16% ever report)! I’m pissed because these victims of sexual assault are women who I KNOW and care about very much (1 in 3!). I’m pissed because most of these personally-known victims only told me AFTER they thought I might actually understand what it’s like to be dominated by another human being. I’m pissed because for every falsely accused Duke Lacrosse member, there are 97 real rapists! I’m pissed because many of these perpetrators, who would devastate others lives, walk amongst us right now as “respected members of the community”. I’m pissed because we only see the tip of the tip of the very tip top of the iceberg with shows like “To Catch a Predator”. I’m pissed because many times we just don’t want to think about what to do to really rehabilitate these perpetrators beyond just locking them up and throwing away the key (because, guess what, they will be walking among our loved ones again in the future). I’m pissed at how we’re raising our boys to grow into “real men” with super-sized masculine overtones that objectify women and sex! I’m pissed because there are some really bad dudes out there – and they’re giving a mostly-good dude like me a bad name.

The sadness comes and goes, the shame is something I’m over, but the anger… it just keeps growing. Because- I know better now.

- Matt Sharples

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

MENtors "Punch Out" Violence

When I think about the messages about manhood today, I find it hard to characterize any of these models presented in music, movies, sports, TV, magazines, and video games as healthy, limitless, projections of manhood. Not that I grew up with anyone better to idolize, as one of my heroes growing up was none other than Mike Tyson. I can’t even begin to calculate the countless hours my friends and I spent playing "Mike Tyson's Punch Out" because he was the toughest person around. Who knew he would bite an opponent boxer's ear off or that his violent personality would spill over to his personal life as he would abuse his wife and that he would be sexually violent toward other women in his life.

I read recently that youth are spending 20 hours on average a week watching TV and, also, that on average today’s youth view over 200,000 violent acts on TV alone by age 18 ( News coverage contributes to more and more of this as it is not just violent TV programming any more. And for that matter, we all know that it’s not just TV that is promoting these violent images. These images are much more prevalent in male culture through readily available access to a variety of technology. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to persuade anyone that media is bad. However, I am suggesting that there are not enough alternatives in media for all these over-stereotyped, celebrated images of the "real man". I just think that there needs to be more people intentionally investing in youth by modeling and embracing a broader range of masculinity to what is constantly played out in many forms in our media today.

On the other hand, I do not want to let media off the hook because it is not as if media is accidentally putting this stuff out there. It is obviously driven by consumerism and they could care less about the side effects. But that’s the scary thing; there are many studies that show a correlation between images viewed by youth and the attitudes or behaviors they display. It is disturbing, specifically, when these images they view normalize disrespect and violence regarding sex and women.

When I reflect and consider where I have been personally and why I find myself pursuing this work in presenting a healthier and safer vision of manhood, I can not help but recognize those men in my life that provided alternative attitudes and behaviors to the ones that dominated my environment. These MENtors taught me that real men could be strong and still respect others. Also, these MENtors instilled in me that violence was never a viable means to a rewarding end but that real men can express a full range of feelings, not just anger, and could empathize with the feelings of others even in midst of conflict. I take a stand in Man Up! with the expectation that there is this opportunity to provide healthier alternative male role models and the hope to reduce men’s violence against women and other men.
~David Belt

Friday, May 18, 2007

Man Up! Chair's Perspective

Astonishingly, men perpetrate over 97% of all sexual assaults yet rape prevention is considered a woman’s issue. And historically rape prevention has focused on female behavior and how to “not be a victim” and failed to address the responsibility men have in preventing sexual violence. So, we as members of Man Up! are looking to promote greater awareness, to stop passively supporting the culture of rape and/or non-consensual sex, and to promote respect for women and consensual sex only.

There is no debate that the violent rapist should be held accountable for his actions. But what about the guy who ignores the first “no”, who “steals that extra base”, disregards a woman not responding or “freezing up”, or “takes advantage” of a woman who is incapable of giving consent due to alcohol or drug consumption?

As bystanders, most men seem to fall all along a continuum which begins at actively intervening to stop a sexual assault and ends at tacitly condoning by winking if they know their friend may score with a girl who, for example, has had too much to drink. But the question arises, what attitude should men have toward sex with women? How do men know when consent is given? What is the acceptable behavior of a man who knows his buddy intends to push a woman toward inebriation so that she will be more likely to “agree” to sex, or be less resistant?

At MOCSA, we have started the Man Up! Program for men who intend to continue this dialogue and that are actively taking personal and corporate responsibility for promoting a greater awareness of preventing sexual violence. This Blog is intended to help us advance this goal and we invite men and women to join us in this discussion. Our ultimate aim is for men to be more aware of the expressions, behaviors, and attitudes that endorse or facilitate sexual violence, to clearly define consensual sex, to seek support for men to stop rape, and to stop sex with another who is not capable of consenting. Mothers have spoken out to stop drunk driving. It’s time for men to speak up and stop rape. Man Up!
-Ken Mellard

Friday, May 11, 2007

Welcome to the Man Up Blog

Welcome! The Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault brings you Man Up! It's our effort to bring stories of how men are stepping up to end sexual violence.

Please visit often for stories about how you can make a difference.