Dear Men, Here is a New Kind of Fantasy

8620396886_9f895a5a66_zDear Men:

Here is a new kind of fantasy. It is about a new kind of man.

These men are born on the campus of an Ivy League college in New England. Or at a West Coast university. Or maybe at a football-happy school on the Great Plains.

These men talk to each other. They order pizza, play fantasy football, share their feelings and do not make fun of each other for this. Mostly, they talk about the men who behave badly, who rape the women on campus, who threaten the women in online blog posts by creating a “rape guide” instructing other men how to rape specific women.

These New Men are, quite frankly, appalled. When the women activists on campus are shouting, demanding justice, they stand among them. They shout. They, too, demand justice.

They begin to see with chilling clarity that these rapacious and violent guys are giving their gender a bad name. They read The Vagina Monologues. They watch The Invisible War. They talk to their women friends. They learn that one out of five women on campus will experience sexual assault and that fewer than 5 percent of completed or attempted rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement (compared to 40 percent in the general population). They reckon with this over coffee. They reckon with this all through the weekend. They meet at night in the library study rooms. They take notes. They develop a new Guy Code.  They email their mothers this new Guy Code to test it out. To see if it passes muster. These New Men have gobs of respect for their mothers and sisters and grandmothers and women professors and the women who work in the cafeteria.

The mothers are pleased. “Go for it,” they tell their sons. “Why not you?” one says, quoting the father of the young football quarterback who won the Superbowl. “About time,” sighs one grandma.

So the men get busy. They start with the frat parties. Gently, whenever they see another guy coercing a drunk young woman to move to an upstairs bedroom, they call that guy over, slap an arm around his shoulder, and say, “Hey, dude, let’s get another beer and chat. Leave her alone. She’s wasted. Can’t be messin’ with a wasted woman. That’s rape. Right, pal? That’s rape, and guys like us don’t rape.”

At first, things go well. Some guys are ready to hear the message. They had never thought about what they were doing as rape; it was just hooking up. Once their eyes were opened, they experienced a new feeling: remorse. They talked this through with the New Men, who listened and did not shame them, and soon they joined the ranks of the New Men.

Some guys, of course, could not hear the New Men at first. These were the harder cases. They made excuses—short skirts, asking for it, no means yes. But the New Men prevailed simply because their message was clear and consistent and because by now there were a preponderance of New Men.

Hardest of all were the recidivists, the guys who rape, rape again, and then again—about six times on average [pdf] for the college rapist. Fact is, the women almost never report, and when they do, no one believes them or they get such a hassle that they let the whole thing drop. Guys who rape live to see another day, another rape. For these guys, the New Men hone their strategy. They seek out the repeat offenders, befriend them, pretend to go along with their crude jokes in order to garner  trust. Then they go all intervention on the guy. Tell him that he is making other guys look bad.

“You can hear no,” the New Men say, “and survive.”

“You can ask a girl who is not drunk if she wants to have sex with you, but you must wait for her to say ‘yes’—a resounding and audible ‘yes’—before you proceed.”

The rapists squirm and hurl vulgarities. They take a swing, but the New Men outnumber them. They’re forced to listen.

“You love your mom?” the New Men ask. “You love your little sister? When you have a little girl someday, you will not want her to meet someone like you at a party. So why not be the man you would like your daughter to meet at a party?”

The New Men stare at the rapist. The rapist either stares back or looks down.

“We do not need to force women to sleep with us just because we can,” the New Men continue. “Being strong is not about hurting people. It is about protecting people. You can be your better self, dude. You can ask a woman if she would like to be with you. And you can have the courage to hear her say ‘No, thank you.’ And then you can walk away. And your dignity walks with you. “

“We know,” say the New Men, ”that some media tells you to take what you want without permission. We know that some guys on your team pat you on the back when you get laid. We know that most universities turn a blind eye. We know that your chances of being charged or jailed are mighty slim—but, damn, bro, this is a moment to take stock.  Rape is a choice you do not have to make.”

The New Men tackle the sports teams next. Then the coaches. Then the professoriate and administration. They challenge all men to be better men. They meet Barack Obama and congratulate him on his willingness to step up.  They venture to Dartmouth and get the administration to shut down the website that hosts incendiary texts like the “Rape Guide.” They visit Steubenville to talk to the benighted folks there. They pilgrimage to Amherst, Emerson, Swarthmore  and Occidental colleges. They make it to all 41 colleges under federal investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases. They visit elementary, middle and high schools to urge anti-rape education.

They become fathers who raise sons who do not rape. They raise daughters who are interested in New Men. They change the world, because they can.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user University of Central Arkansas licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Donna and Gloria Steinem-1Donna Decker is Professor of English and Women in Leadership at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. Her book about the 1989 Montreal Massacre is forthcoming from Inanna Press in 2014.

Comments

  1. how can we spread this to other campuses? How can I start with CUNY and SUNY?

  2. suzanne Mazoff says:

    So proud of these new men and all those they help to see more clearly the error of their ways. As a survivor it is huge to watch the change taking place in our communities due to the new men who are willing to walk a mile on a woman’s shoes. I applaud all of you who strive for this New Change. God bless you and the future of our children. Thank you.

  3. FeministN says:

    I’m glad there are men like this in the world.
    Just a thought below though, provoked with this blog, it is important that we as woman don’t fawn over men of nature or the idea of men of such a nature, because it is a long, LONG way for men to go when it comes to accepting equal feminine expression.
    I know its a blog but it seems a bit too romantic, where are the facts?
    Say I want to contact these men for whatsoever reason, who are they, where can I find them…?

    • Paul Schuesler says:

      Sadly, there is no international group of card-carrying Real Men where you can call us.
      We are out there and I believe we are growing in numbers. We have a long way to go before we are all enlightened and live as we should. Hopefully, we can all point to ideas like this and they will become the norm and humanity will become something worthy of the universe.

  4. Michael G. Bucci says:

    Thank you. Very good article.

  5. John H. Sharp says:

    This is a fantasy that can and should become reality! Count me in!

  6. Greg Mattiussi says:

    Ms. Drecker,

    Thanks for writing this. It is a wise and helpful picture of what could, should, and will be. One of the main reasons that is wise and helpful is that it does not speak down to or demean all men.

  7. Alison Slow Loris says:

    what a beautiful dream. Might happen within the next century if we all work really hard — and if we can disconnect today’s children from the steady flow of violent and dehumanizing online pornography that tells that rape and an utter lack of empathy are the norm.

  8. It is great to see men speak up and stand up for women. I’m waiting for men do the same for themselves. Stopping rape is needed. What is also needed is addressing the deep causes of rap.

    We need to teach young and old men a new way to experience and express their emotional needs that is not a feminine version of masculinity. As men we learned a lot about emotions from our mothers and other women. It’s now time we learn vulnerability and empathy from men so the need to rape dissolves.

    • Donna decker says:

      Owen,
      thank you for responding. I agree that learning vulnerability is key for men. I must say, however, that there is NEVER the need to rape. Never ever.

  9. I guess she said it is “new kind of fantasy” … not happening at the moment, but how I wish!!!

  10. My one and only concern is, what does in fact happen when the New Men get through to the rapist, who 15-20 years down the line DOES have a daughter. Does he teach her to stand up and respect herself, or does he do the “Eight Simple Rules” routine and tell everyone that she’s his Little Princess and always will be, and scream at her if she puts on makeup or wears something other than a burqa, or talks to a guy on the phone? The obnoxious, controlling behavior from his college years simply morphs into something different once he becomes a father. This is harmful behavior that also must be addressed.

  11. So glad to see so many men turning this fantasy into reality.

    Thank you!

  12. What a wonderfully elegant idea. Why not a fundamental shift? What’s the stop us/them? Thank you for the courage and foresight to bring it out in the open.

  13. i remember hearing from an older man who had read Dance of the Dissident Daughter, after his wife had brought it home and been impacted by it. For him, the discovery of this depth of female spirituality and wholeness — this vision and truth that there is feminine divine as well, and world well beyond patriarchal culture — was earth-shattering in the best way. Friends, hearing from him was looking at a man who had seen God.

    As i read this, i am reminded of just how healing for men and all people of a patriarchal culture it can be to discover that there is another way. Thanks for the article.

  14. Olivia Hilton says:

    This is awesome Donna! Loved this piece I hope we can spread this at FPU

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