When people learn that I write about sexual violence prevention, it’s pretty common for them to launch into a story about some man that was falsely accused. I have no insight into the truth of these stories so I can only take them at their word, but I do question the intent of these stories. I read them as rebuttals to the very concept of sexual violence. They are meant to be attacks on every report of sexual violence that doesn’t fall into the teller’s notions of “real” violence.
Affirmative consent policies certainly seem to be the future of the national conversation on sexual violence. These policies require somebody who initiates sexual activity to explicitly obtain a partner’s consent. States such as California and New York have already enacted legislation requiring state-funded colleges to adopt affirmative consent policies and more appear to be on the way. The collective impact moves us away from the familiar refrain of “No Means No” to thinking about “Yes Means Yes”.
It’s probably just the crowds that I run with but I don’t know too many people that don’t have an opinion on the criminal allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby. I can fit nearly all of these people into two crowds. The first crowd would be folks that lean towards believing that there is merit to the charges. They believe that where there is smoke, there is fire and that over twenty alleged victims certainly constitutes some smoke. The other crowd consists of folks who think that Cosby is the result of an overreaching media and criminal justice system. They attribute this overreaching to a hungry news cycle, shady corporate wrangling, or outright racism; but they all nonetheless see Cosby as a target and nearly all of them think Cosby’s race is a factor.
When I was in elementary school, the most powerful diss that you could throw at a boy was to call him a girl. When I got to middle school, this evolved somewhat as the worse thing that you could call a boy was gay. I don’t think that too much has changed now that I’m a grown man. Most of us have come up with more nuanced language than we possessed in elementary school but challenging someone’s sex and/or sexuality remains among the most scathing attacks that one can aim at a man. The recent back and forth between Drake and Meek Mill got me thinking on this as I thought about how nearly every diss track that I know includes an obligatory shot at someone’s sex and/or sexuality. Here’s some of the tracks that first come to mind for me.
Some of my friends were surprised to hear me say this but I have to admit that I enjoyed N.W.A.’s biopic “Straight Outta Compton.” I went into it somewhat conflicted about a movie about a group so intimately linked to commercializing the degradation of women but responded to the “rags to riches” success story of African-American men who unabashedly shared their voices with the World. I recognize that a two-and-a-half hour film cannot be everything to everybody and can admit that I walked out of the theater with much inspiration to share my own voice.
Many of my peers are getting amped up for Straight Outta Compton, the upcoming biopic about N.W.A, but I am rather conflicted. The height of N.W.A.’s popularity was admittedly a little before I got into hip hop but I distinctly remember them taking a lot of criticism for popularizing the degradation of women. Going back and looking at some of their lyrics makes it easy to see why they drew this criticism but nearly all of the media that I regularly follow is embracing the film to include those with feminist sensibilities such as Melissa Harris Perry. I hang with a lot of folks that normally key in on violence against women and the cultural supports for it but I’ve only seen excitement for the film in my circles.
“The fight of the century” between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has now come and gone so this is a good time to reflect on the fights that I had leading up to it. Like many men, I spent a good deal of time conversing with my boys about who I wanted to win. I quickly learned that I was in the minority of my cohort that was rooting for Pacquio and, when pressed to defend my choice, my position usually made mention of the numerous domestic violence allegations that Mayweather carried with him. I didn’t feel that I could write a blog such as this and then turn around and support a man so intimately linked to violence against women.
The following initially ran as a guest piece in Huffington Post on 2/25/15
I’m the guy that overanalyzes the misogynistic hip hop pouring from his car and wonders if he should cut it off out of principle. I’m the guy that derails the incessant conversations held behind closed doors where men rant about all allegations of sexual violence being the result of malicious, lying accusers. I’m the guy who spends his free time blogging about whether or not the language that we use for sex contributes to a rape culture that fosters violence against women.
There was an all-female peer education program on my college campus that challenged students to consider the terminology that we use for sex. They would ask audiences to identify common vernacular for sex and audiences would inevitably come up with words such as screw, bang, and fuck. The presenters would then note how many of these words required an aggressor and somebody on which the act is done. They believed that this language undercut sex as a mutual act and reflected a rape culture that normalized hundreds of thousand of annual sexual assaults.