The University of Oregon dominated Florida State in the 2015 Rose Bowl. The Ducks’ converted four consecutive turnovers into 27 unanswered points, leading to a 59–20 rout. Afterward, several Oregon players were filmed singing “No means no!” to the tune of the FSU “War Chant.” An act that was presumably directed at star quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who’d recently been accused of raping a female student. Antirape activists heralded the mocking jibe as a victory: Finally, here was a group of normatively masculine men shaming other normatively masculine men for sexually assaulting women.
But two University of Oregon sociology professors, C.J. Pascoe and Jocelyn Hollander, saw it differently. What if the point of the chant wasn’t to make a statement about sexual assault, but rather to position their opponent as a failed man, thereby humiliating him both on and off the field? This question introduces a paper they published in October 2015 entitled “Good Guys Don’t Rape,” which documents how young men distance themselves from identities as rapists while simultaneously exhibiting dominance over women and other men with behavior that “mobilizes rape.”
It seems that toxic masculinity – men’s problematic gender practices entailing violence, sexual aggression, emotional repression and dominance – is everywhere. I recently keynoted a conference at Oregon State University entitled “Moving Upstream: Examining the Sources of Toxic Masculinity to Create Healthier Communities.” Thanks to the internet we know that Wolverineis an example of it. The GOP is full of it. Both(former) Bernie and (current) Trumpsupporters embody it in their contempt for women. People aredebating examples of it on the internet. Books are being written about it.
Men are blogging about freeing themselves from toxic masculinity and its deadly effects. They are simultaneously drowning in it and deeply invested in distancing themselves from it. Even men who arguably exemplify toxic masculinity seek to avoid the label. Take for example Brock Turner, a Stanford student convicted of raping an unconscious woman. Even though two eyewitnesses watched him sexually assault the woman, he insists “in no way was I trying to rape anyone.“
This is “good guy” syndrome. Good guys aren’t sexist, they aren’t racist, and they think gays are okay and they definitely do not condone sexual assault. Brock Turner’s “good guy” syndrome is not unique. An article I wrote with Jocelyn Hollander, “Good Guys Don’t Rape,” documents how young men distance themselves from identities as rapists even as they describe behaviors that look an awful lot like sexual assault—and, indeed, certainly meets the legal definition. Take Chad, a popular high school football player:
When I was growin’ up I started having sex in the 8th grade…The majority of the girls in 8th and 9th grade were just stupid. We already knew what we were doing. They didn’t know what they were doing you know?… Like say, comin’ over to our house like past 12. What else do you do past 12? Say we had a bottle of alcohol or something. I’m not saying we forced it upon them. I’m sayin’…Continue reading “How do we know a toxic masculinity when we see it?”→
What is Green Dot? What is Girl Code? What are PAV at Pennsylvania; CASH/A at West Point; Campus Choice at Southern Oregon; UMatter at UMass? These (and other) programs on U.S. college campuses are aimed at ending sexual abuse—from harassment to assault to rape. Their shared goal is encouragement of and training for “Bystander Activism.” Green Dot has been adopted in Kentucky for middle and high schools as well as colleges and universities and early research suggests it is achieving its goal which “. . is to mobilize a force of engaged and proactive bystanders” and reduce the incidence of sexual assaults. Most campus bystanders are students—women and men–who spot someone in trouble or about to be preyed upon by unscrupulous actors. Ironically, and thankfully, two Stanford graduate student “bystanders” were “active” when they hopped off their bikes and detained Brock Turner who ran from them and reported an “unconscious inebriated woman” whom Brock was assaulting.
The importance of bystanders should not be underestimated. After the infamous gang rape at Florida State University in 1988, the prosecutor discovered that many students, women and men, had been present on the third floor of the Pi Kappa Alpha house where the rape occurred. They knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it. In the Pike case, bystanders were enablers—as they were in the Bedford MA gang rape of a Portuguese woman in 1983 when some cheered the rapists on. But they can also be disrupters, as the Stanford cyclists were. On the Green Dot webpage at Florida State, bystanders can report—anonymously—their efforts to prevent sexual harassment, assault and rape. Stopping one’s peers is not difficult if students understand the stakes and support each other to take action. Continue reading “Bystanders: Activate! And the Stanford Rape”→