Monday, December 14, 2009

The Semantics Of Dealing With Men Who Take Predatory Approach To Women

When people defend what they wrote related to boys or men's predatory behavior by merely explaining it was satire that is as great of a failure as the original "satire." For this reason the apology by University of North Dakota student Josh Brorby stands out in sharp contrast.

Here's the opening:

Two weeks ago, an article I submitted to the Dakota Student entitled "One Night Standing: The Method" was published and sent out across campus. The article, in my mind, was a satirical piece attempting to get predatory men across our University to take a long, hard look at themselves and their behavior.

However, I realize now that this issue is too serious to use in satire - too serious to be treated so lightly in any way whatsoever.

I was wrong to think that humor could be used to look at a problem that is so visceral and prevalent in universities. In the article - no matter how each individual received it - I did not take into account the fact that many women have dealt with situations incredibly similar to the one I presented. I did not consider that in writing a satirical piece on such a personal issue, I was taking my position as a man for granted, ignoring the fact that such humorous overtones allow men who may think like the satirical character created to feel okay with their behavior, or to joke about deep sexual issues. The approach I took (I now know) did not address the issue in a way that could help; it only propagated the intense and still-existent rape/predatory culture that pervades our society.

For this, I am truly sorry, and I apologize to all readers of the Dakota Student. It was a gross mistake on my part to submit the piece.
The article continues and I urge everyone to read it in its entirety.

The context of his actions are not given as an excuse since Brorby has not taken the most common path of defending what he wrote while slamming those who criticized him or the original piece. This difference may seem slight to some people but it is a critical difference.

Those who take a defensive posture resist learning anything meaningful and compound their original blunder by viewing those who criticize them as the only people who are in the wrong. This posture requires the stock claim that those who had a problem with a particular piece of satire have no sense of humor.

Their self-image as people who are in the right has become more important than actually being part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. Unfortunately, too often there is more support for those who defend "satire" which hurts those who have already been harmed than there is for those who are willing to reassess what they've written and how they've approached an issue.

This is true beyond "satire" and has an impact on primary prevention since that effort focuses on how our environments currently support sexual violence and how changes in our environment can reduce people's rationalizations for committing sexual violence.

When people simply defend what they've done in the past because they don't want to acknowledge where they have failed, even unintentionally, they block positive change and they are actively working against disclaimers they make in their defense.

I see this most frequently when people write or talk about empowering potential rape victims to be safer. What is positioned as empowerment is rarely true empowerment. Instead this "empowerment" is nothing more than the shifting of a sex criminal's responsibility onto victims and potential victims. This shift contributes to the violence these people want to prevent by making it easier for those who choose violence to find reasons they are not responsible for their own actions.

Just as a victim focus minimizes the sex criminal's sense of responsibility, a satirical approach minimizes the sex criminal's sense that the offense is anything more severe than bad manners.

As Brorby seems to have learned you don't oppose predatory sexual behavior at a meaningful level by mocking it. To oppose predatory sexual behavior you need to treat that behavior as a serious problem.

I'll close with his words:
Rape is the logical conclusion of this mode of thinking. When a man begins to view sex simply as an arena in which to attain power - to get pats-on-the-back or a personal feeling of accomplishment - the proverbial seed has already sprouted. Rape is a showing of power, a grasping for control over somebody. When a man dehumanizes a woman in his own mind, he is already crossing the line.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:40 AM   1 comments links to this post


At December 14, 2009 4:29 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Thank you Marcella for writing about this article. Yes, Josh Brorby thought 'satire' was the correct approach in challenging male sexual violence against women but he, unlike so many men, actually listened to those who criticised his piece and this enabled him to understand the real issues.

Josh Brorby need not have written a follow-up piece or he could have mitigated his accountability but he did not - he accepted his accountability.

Josh Brorby is correct - only men can prevent male sexual violence against women and girls - not women and girls, but in stating this reality he will undoubtedly be criticised and maligned.

Challenging male sexual violence against women and girls is never easy and yes it is not only about individual men's belief in their sex right to women and girls - it is about men as a collective changing their views and finally, finally realising and accepting - that women and girls have rights too. But this fact is still seen as too radical and too frightening to many men and many women too - because it means men as a group must be held accountable for their behaviour and misogyny.


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