The last couple of days my Facebook feed has been flooded with the #meetoo tag highlighting sexual assault and harassment against women in our society. The thought that “ordinary men” need to be made aware how ubiquitous the problem with violence against women is in itself not a bad one but rather a well intentioned one. This needs to be talked about, all forms of sexual abuse, harassment and violence needs to be highlighted and stopped. If nothing else the flood of #meetoo posts in our FB feeds is a testament to the magnitude of the problem. It truly breaks my heart to see all the men and women who are sharing their stories in my news feed.
Still I have a problem with the whole issue. When I also posted the #meetoo tag I was accused of being everything from misogynistic to a force of oppression for the patriarchy; part of the problem. I feel that there is a large shadow here hiding in a very real issue: violence against women.
I want to go out on a limb here and say that: MEN ARE NOT THE PROBLEM!
Victims and villains
The current debate paints all women as powerless victims and men as powerful villains. While it is a good thing to make people aware of violence against women the current debate creating this victim/villain dichotomy is in my humble opinion part of the problem rather than the solution.
I was told in no uncertain terms that cis-gendered men are the problem even if they have never harassed or sexually assaulted a woman. Just by being born a men, they are part of the oppressive patriarchy, part of the problem with violence, sexual harassment and misogyni against women.
Men are not monsters
I want to to make this statement clear, men are not the problem! Entitlement, failed communication, unclear boundaries, repressed sexuality and most importantly not understanding consent; This is the problem. Yes, violence and sexual harassment against women is real, it is a serious problem, a problem that needs to be adressed. The issue I feel with vilifying men as we discuss this problem is that we end up with both women and men afraid of male sexuality. This will lead to a repression of sexuality in general and when people repress they will become a pressure cooker of repressed sexuality that will lead to acting out in ways that are harmful to the people around them.
Consent and boundaries
This is not a male problem, it is a human problem. It is an issue of clear communication around the taboo area of sexuality. We, as in the human race, need to learn how to talk about sex and our desires in a way that is honoring and consensual. As long as it is taboo to talk about sexuality, as long as the strongest emotion connected to our sexuality is shame, as long as we as humans are not practiced in communication about boundaries and consent we will be stuck in a downward spiral of repression and acting out.
“If we want this to change we need to elevate the conversation. We need to talk about boundaries and consent because consent is sacred!”
Where do we go from here?
It is time to elevate the conversation. It is time we de-stigmatise sexuality. It is time to make communication skills (especially around sexuality, boundaries and consent) part of the curriculum in school. And yes it is time that we all, both men and women call each other out anytime we are crossing or even close to crossing that line of the sacred circle of consent.