Opinion | Op-eds

Changing masculinity behind closed doors

As a community, we’ve been working to address sexual assault and misconduct on our campus. We’ve gotten the administration to start releasing hard data. We’ve gotten them to make a website articulating the University’s policies. We’ve even gotten President Bollinger to address the community at large. Yet, as much as I support and applaud our recent efforts to change the administration’s policies, I cannot help but feel that we are only addressing half of the problem. 

As students, there are things that we can and must address within our sexual culture and ourselves, that extend beyond the roles and responsibilities of the University administration. To make our campus a safer and more sexually healthy place, we need widespread change within our men. 

Although sexual safety is often couched as a problem that pertains mostly to women, the statistics say otherwise. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 99 percent of convicted rapists are male. Meanwhile, as President Obama stated in a recent speech, one in five women are raped at some point during their time at college. This is a problem, undeniably, of men and by men, and men must take a more active role in combatting it. 

Male readers, how frequently have you heard a friend say something objectifying, and in turn seen yourself say nothing in response? How many times have you found yourself boasting about your sexual exploits? 

It is something all men—including myself—are guilty of, at one point or another. At the end of the day, men want to impress other men. We don’t want to ostracize ourselves by being the only one to speak out against objectifying speech or behavior. We grow up hearing and then repeating the mantra, “Be a man.” We are told that we need to be aggressive. We are told that we need to have lots of sex if we are to earn any respect. 

The media, in turn, present an emotionally detached womanizer—a troubled hero entitled to success and the woman of his choice—as a man to admire. It gives us the archetype of the young charmer who, in spite of his misdeeds, eventually learns from all of his sexual blunders, often without consequence.

Regardless of how vocal their peers are on a day to day basis, men internalize these values. We come to root our self-worth in the opinions of other men and in the amount of sex we have. We become content to sacrifice ourselves to stereotype. We rationalize and make excuses for our behavior. We are some of the smartest men in the world, and we go to one of the best schools in the world. And yet, when it comes to sex, we allow ourselves to be driven by our basest impulses, when we are so obviously better than that. The men of this campus—and men everywhere— shouldn’t accept reducing themselves. We can control ourselves. We can have respect for others. 

It is time for us to take an active role in policing the harmful behavior of other men, for us to become the most vocal critics of sexually harmful behavior. It is time for us to understand that persistence is not boyish and cute, that getting someone drunk is not an acceptable method of hitting on someone, that we are worth more than the amount of sex we have. 

If we want a better school, if we want better lives for ourselves and our classmates, we need to do more than change the way we talk about sex in classes and hallways. We need to change how we talk behind closed doors. We need to change the way we act at bars. We need to become the most active members of the effort to stop sexual violence and to speak up to each other, even when it is difficult. Above all else, we need to change the way we think of women, and even more so, ourselves. A masculinity based on sexual accomplishment is unfulfilling for men and harmful to women. If we want to make our campus a safer place, that’s the first thing we need to change. The rest will follow. 

We are already making so much progress. But until we change the way we value ourselves as men, until we find the courage to stand up to the little things, in the small situations when things seem most innocuous, it will not be enough. We owe our classmates and ourselves more than the disappointment of falling short. We owe it to ourselves to find a more fulfilling definition of masculinity than the one we have now.

The author is a Columbia College sophomore and a member of the Columbia Review’s editorial board.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you for writing this.

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you for writing this.

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cc17 posted on

this is classic GDI behavior

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Sachem '92 posted on

Pathetic. The best way to stop bad men from doing bad things is not to ask them nicely to change or even to "re-educate" them. The best way to deter rape, assault, etc is to empower the potential victims. Ladies, get yourself a gun or learn karate or carry another weapon. Also, learn how not to get yourself in a bad situation with too much drinking etc. Stay on your toes and blow your attacker away with my blessing any time. Now that's a solution.

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Sachem '92 posted on

Oh, and if 1 in 5 college women were really getting raped, no one would send their kids to college anymore. That's a bogus stat that disrespects the women out there who really ARE raped. http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/263834/are-one-five-college-women-sexually-assaulted-heather-mac-donald

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Anonymous posted on

"Oh, and if 1 in 5 college women were really getting raped, no one would send their kids to college anymore." Great speculation. Guess what? Heather MacDonald's article hinges on the fact that people will do ANYTHING to protect victims of sexual assault. She assumes that if these statistics were that high, people would have done SOMETHING. And there's the faulty reasoning. Assuming "If this bad thing were happening, more would be happening to stop it." Assuming that the system can and will respond to sexual assault properly. If anything, it doesn't. Read the Blue & White article — Columbia's response to students reporting sexual assault allegations has been incredibly shoddy. 2) Sure, this op-ed focuses in masculinity and men. But you're assuming sexual assault can only be perpetrated by men. Hello, sexual assault still happens in all-women's colleges. Women CAN sexual assault, and as a woman who's been sexually violated by another woman, I can speak to that.

Also:

"There are a few, simple antidotes to the alleged campus-rape crisis: Don’t drink yourself blotto. Don’t get into bed with one of your fellow drunken revelers. Keep your clothes on. If every girl practiced those elementary rules, poor Ms. Ali might be out of a well-paying government job."

Lol at you still thinking that this article even makes a good argument. Basically asking women to stop drinking themselves "blotto" and to "practice elementary rules" to prevent rape. Lol. Guess what? Sexual assault still happens even if you're not sober. It still happens with friends, not just with strangers you met at parties. It happened to me with a boyfriend, when we were sober at 4 in the afternoon. And guess what? Not all sexual assault is "forcible" — to be sexually assaulted, I do not have to be physically overpowered, or pinned down. Nonconsensual sex IS sexual assault.

So please. Shut up before you make yourself look like more of an idiot than you already are.

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Anonymous posted on

And one more thing. You're working on the assumptions that rapists are evil scary people. No, they're not. And that's why sexual assault is even scarier. You don't have to have the intention of sexually assaulting someone and it could still be sexual assault. If a guy or woman comes with me to my bedroom, and we start kissing, and suddenly he/she begin to take off my clothes and having sex without so much as either asking me if I wanted to have sex or noticing that my body language had suddenly become unresponsive and frozen, that is sexual assault. Just because I'm not saying "no" or I'm not fighting you off doesn't mean it's sexual assault. Unfortunately we grow up in a society where the media puts masculine sexual aggression on a pedestal, a society where we're not taught consent.

If rapists were all evil and all had the explicit intent to sexually assault, that would be differently. But that's not the way it is. Which makes the issue of sexual assault far more scarier. And which is precisely why we need to teach everyone how not to sexually assault. We shouldn't be telling women how not to GET sexually assaulted.

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Anonymous posted on

The National Review cites argues, amongst other things, that rape stats are inflated because we count attacks where women wouldn't label their experiences as rape. A lot of victims of date rape don't consider their encounter rape because they knew the person, blame themselves, and don't want to be seen as a victim, often because we so often make a spectacle of rape victims here. Worse, we doubt them, call their judgment into question, and act as though they're bad people. Rape is rape; the stats shouldn't be deflated because of the way we stigmatize rape victims

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Sachem '92 posted on

This is typical Alinsky crisis-creation: take a problem, (sexual assault on campuses), blow the numbers WAY out of proportion, make it a crisis, and then take power based on the hysteria.

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Anonymous posted on

Shut up.

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Sachem '92 posted on

As the dad of two girls, you can bet I'm not going to put my daughters' safety in the hands of idiots who think re-educating men not to treat women badly is the answer. I teach them to stand up for themselves, don't binge drink, and if carrying a weapon is the way to go on your campus, get a permit.

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Anonymous posted on

lol

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Sachem '92 posted on

Again, trying to re-educate young men to not rape and hoping for the best is ridiculous. You're right that Columbia has screwed this up by not punishing the offenders properly. 100% right. But the solution is not re-education. The solution is PUNISHMENT and sending the message that if you assault anyone you're going to JAIL.

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Arsene Wenger posted on

Quality Troll

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Anonymous posted on

Just because someone has a different opinion from you does not make them a troll.

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Anonymous posted on

Maybe the problem is many men feel disrespected by women. They are taken advatage of, always wrong in a court of law, always expected to pay for everything. Look at how men are depicted in the media, movies, on TV, as always the idiot, goof ball, looser, unemployed, brunt of all jokes, the punch line. This does not give boys self confidence.

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Anonymous posted on

Whatever happened to being sex-positive?

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i can't believe i have to explain this but posted on

Being sex-positive is not the same as being rape-positive. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Consensual and safe are key words here.

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Man Guy posted on

Not sure where this advice leads us. Attraction cannot be negotiated - if you need to ask for sex, you're probably not going to get it. This is problematic.

Women are more selective than men when it comes to who they sleep with, and this leads to men competing with each other for a partner. Men, like women, need sex for emotional and physical fulfillment. They have to be sexually forward if they stand even a remote chance of having sex.

Now, if a man initiates a sexual interaction with a woman who doesn't want it, clearly there must be a way to put a stop to it. Clearly there must be a way to punish those who coerce women to have sex with them. However, to suggest that re-education geared towards sexual passivity will make men less sexually forward would be the same as saying that it would somehow change their status as competitors, which is just absolute rubbish.

The only result such a campaign would have would be to make the meeker among men [you know, the people barely anyone sleeps with to begin with] terrified at the prospect of sleeping with a girl who might not want it. Meanwhile, Chad Douchebro will continue to hump girls left and right, willing, unwilling, and turned-on-but-not-quite-sure-about-it alike in whatever musty frat dorm he lives in. Great job.

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Anonymous posted on

Except all of the data and statistics on rape are entirely skewed towards men being the sole perpetrators, especially since most statistical data doesn't believe forced penetration is rape.
http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf
^This study will give the same numbers that men are 90%+ the rapists in a situation. But considering that on pg. 84, where they define forced penetration as an act distinct from rape (which is completely, utterly ridiculous), that's why most of the data says that the overwhelming majority of rapists are men, when it's probably more around ~60% men/~40% women if you count forced penetration as rape, WHICH WE SHOULD DO.
Victimization goes both ways. Male victims by other women don't get even close to as much attention to everyone else, and it should be equal for all.

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