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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How Many Politicians Does It Take to Prevent a Sexual Indiscretion?

Thanks to Patrick for letting us cross-post this on our Blog. Please check out more of his work at

By Patrick McGann
Director of Strategy & Planning

I finished writing Part 5 of “How I Came to Work at Men Can Stop Rape” yesterday (the part where I actually finally end up at MCSR) but then this morning read the Washington Post and learned that Rep. David Wu (D-OR) is accused of having “aggressive and unwanted” sex with a teenage daughter of a friend. My reaction, said out loud at the kitchen table: “What is wrong with these guys?” It wasn’t directed at Abby, my wife, as much as it was an expression of exasperation. So, I’m delaying posting Part 5 for addressing political scandal.

Part of me still expects, I suppose, high standards of behavior from our public representatives. Idealistically, I assume they understand their need to uphold and represent our democratic principles, and that “sexual indiscretions” (media language) are not in line with those principles. In a more practical sense, surely they have already seen enough politicians fall from grace so that they are aware of the potential consequences to their own careers? When I went to Texas Tech we told Texas A & M jokes about how many Aggies it takes to screw in a light bulb. Although I can’t quite wrap my head around it right now, I’m thinking there’s a similar joke about how many politicians it takes to stop a sexual indiscretion.

Of course I know why these male politicians keep acting in inappropriate ways. Isn’t traditional masculinity the root cause for so many things we men do? And doesn’t it need a light shined on it in the hallways of our government buildings? It has been invisible for too long in our Capitol, I say! Not only do politicians suffer the consequences when one of their own creates a “Guys Gone Stupid” video, we as citizens lose any sense that the people in charge of our country are credible, responsible, and respectable adults.

Our politicians need help! They can’t prevent these indiscretions on their own or they would have already done so. I challenge them to bring in the masculinity and gender-based violence prevention experts.

Politicians, I beg you: ask not what masculinity can do for you, but what you can do to change masculinity.

* * *
Patrick McGann, Ph.D. has been involved with Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) since the organization’s inception in 1997. As Director of Strategy and Planning, Patrick co-authored a sexual assault prevention strategy for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in 2008 and oversaw the development of the HURTS ONE. AFFECTS ALL. public education campaign for DoD in 2010. He regularly gives presentations across the country on engaging men in the prevention of gender-based violence.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Speaking Up Part 2: In the Workplace

My last post (“Speaking Up: When, Where, Why?”) called attention to the issue of males calling out hostile males when surrounded only by other men. I mentioned a recent lunch I was having with a friend who had a few choice words regarding a female friend of mine when I decided to speak up. While I do feel confident in my actions regarding the incident with my friend, I realize that it was a conversation among friends and in private. However, I have recently been a part of several situations in which I have seen male-perpetrated harassment of women taking place in an entirely different setting: at work and among people I do not know very well.

My summer job involves a great deal of interaction with new students at the university I attend. My fellow undergraduate colleagues and I often find ourselves in situations in which we are working 1 on 1 with students. Recently, I and a few other members of my staff have noticed some elements of the behavior of James (not his real name) that we do not feel entirely comfortable with. James has a habit of working with three or four of the female students each day in a much greater capacity than with any other incoming student. Often, his behavior crosses the line: sharing seats with women that did not invite him to do so, giving certain female students massages (again, without being asked to do so), and persistently asking for numbers (and not resting until he gets at least what could be the phone number of whoever he is asking).

Personally, James’ behavior infuriates me. I have brought it up a few times with my peers and most have similar feelings. However, we never do anything about it. Admitting that I have done nothing to stop behavior that is clearly demeaning, inappropriate, and offensive makes me feel horrible. Only now do I realize how silly it is to let James’ actions persist. The students we work with daily are already in a stressful position: the start of their college careers. The last thing they need is an aggressor like James stressing them out even more. I would greatly appreciate knowing what you all would do if in a similar position. Is it best to confront James? To inform his supervisor? What have been your experiences with workplace aggression?

Ryan Derry

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Flat Tires, Rape, and Why You Should Care

Recently, I was loading up the car for summer family vacation, and as I was checking my tires in preparation to hit the road, it reminded me of some unfortunate comments from a couple of months ago.

This is not going to be a blog post about partisan politics, religion or abortion - honest! No, it's a blog about the antiquated and harmful attitudes and insensitivities expressed recently by a member of the Kansas House of Representatives that perpetuate the idea that victims of sexual abuse are somehow responsible or to blame for what happens to them.

Last May, during a Kansas House discussion of a bill that will ban insurance companies from covering abortion insurance under general healthcare plans, Kansas State Representative Pete DeGraaf from Mulvane basically said women needed to "plan ahead" for being raped and possibly impregnated against their will; that being raped is like getting a flat tire. I remember thinking after hearing his comments, "Did he really just say that?!" You can read this report, in its entirety, from the Associated Press article posted on May 13, 2011.

Mr. DeGraaf, you are off base with these remarks and have demonstrated a complete lack of sensitivity to the violation and loss of dignity experienced by a victim of sexual assault. This point was well illustrated in the attached Venn Diagram showing some of the notable differences between having a flat tire and being raped: in one instance, you call AAA and have them replace the flat tire with your spare tire, and you are quickly on your way; however, in the other situation, you may have to face contracting HIV/STDs, an on-going and often overwhelming sense of shame and of violation, and/or unwanted pregnancy. I am not of the opinion that the two events have anything in common, and I am not willing to accept that rape is an eventuality of being a woman in today's society or that anyone should ever have to plan ahead to be raped.

I respectfully suggest that Mr. DeGraaf issue an apology to all the women and men of Kansas (and thanks to the internet, the rest of the Country), for his insensitive remarks. While these comments were prominent in the media a few months ago, they are no less relevant today and we need to continue to address the insensitivity behind them. There are several petition efforts currently underway (even one on Facebook), as well as a "send a tire" campaign, and of course, feel free to drop him a line at his office. Check out your options and act appropriately!

By Mike Eggleston

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An Interesting (but not so fun) Thought Experiment

Can you imagine the first paragraph of this news article reporting this instead?:

Paula Nelson was at a Kansas City park with relatives Wednesday night when three young women walked over a grassy hill and opened fire without saying a word.”

While it is certainly in the realm of possibility that three young women would savagely murder another female in pubic, it is not the norm. And it comes as no surprise that we find young men committing acts of horrific violence. While I’m not advocating an increase in female violence (I’m guessing that is not what people mean when they speak of gender equality), I was taken aback by how shocked I was when I switched the sex of those involved in the story.

What does it say about men that violence is so normal, acceptable, and even encouraged among us? What are we doing do change this overwhelming problem? What are you doing about violence dominating masculinity?

Try switching the sexes in this story.