The following day, I attended a workshop about preventing gender violence, facilitated by Katz. There, he posed a question to all of the men in the room: “Men, what things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?”
Not one man, including myself, could quickly answer the question. Finally, one man raised his hand and said, “Nothing.” Then Katz asked the women, “What things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?” Nearly all of the women in the room raised their hand. One by one, each woman testified:
“I don’t make eye contact with men when I walk down the street,” said one. “I don’t put my drink down at parties,” said another. “I use the buddy system when I go to parties.” “I cross the street when I see a group of guys walking in my direction.” “I use my keys as a potential weapon.”
The women went on for several minutes, until their side of the blackboard was completely filled with responses. The men’s side of the blackboard was blank. I was stunned. I had never heard a group of women say these things before. I thought about all of the women in my life — including my mother, sister and girlfriend — and realized that I had a lot to learn about gender.
This all sounds very inspiring until you remember that women are several times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted then men. The proportionate risk is objectively greater, and women are broadly physically and physiologically different from men. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it doesn’t prove anything other than that men and women have different ways of dealing with sexual threats because they face different sexual threats and are different, and that Hurt was not aware of this. Neither I nor Hurt can speak for the other men in the course. I knew that fact and I still don’t cover my tuchus, so to speak. I do, however, take several measures against non-sexual assault, and some of them are awfully similar to those the women take.
I’m betting that the person running the workshop did not then go “okay, what do you do to protect yourself against any violent assault? How about accusations of rape? If you are so inclined, do you initiate most of your romantic interactions with the other gender? If you report a rape or sexual harassment incident, are you likely to be believed, or to get people fired even from a false allegation? If you’re walking behind someone at night, do you worry that they think you’re some kind of criminal, such as a rapist?” Because being a big Black man who has actually been sexually harassed, I kinda worry about these sorts of things a lot. The writer? Also a big Black guy.
And I kind of have to wonder; for a gender relations class, what did the women learn about men?