This is important. I want all of the cis men who clicked on this post to read this exchange. Start with this photo and click all the way through to the end. (Source: my excellent Facebook friend Anna Jobsis).
Content note for sexual assault, victim-blaming bullshit, rape culture apologia.
If you think Carlos is making really good points and sounds really reasonable, you need to start educating yourself on what rape culture is. Now. Before you open your mouth to advise a woman on what she should or shouldn’t do. Before you nod along with your fellow dudes while they’re explaining this shit at women. Before you ever say one more fucking word, shut up and do some learning.
And keep in the forefront of your mind that what I’m saying applies to trans women, genderfluid, and nonbinary people just as much. Cis and trans women, along with people coded or read as women or femme, but who don’t identify as women, all have to deal with all this shit. And it’s constant. Carlos is just one vivid example in an endless septic ocean of them. Carlos is just one guy among millions who thinks he’s a nice dude and helping women out, but who is actually throwing toxic sludge all over them.
And you, dear reader, may also be a Carlos. I know you don’t mean to be. But you’ve been socialized that way, and most of you haven’t spent much time rethinking your assumptions. I know this because I was once a Carlita. I absorbed those same toxic rape culture messages and passed them on. Yes, women can perpetuate this shit, too, but it’s mostly men doing it, and we need you to stop. It can be done. If I can learn it, anyone can.
So let’s go back through Carlos’s lecture. As you’re reading, ask yourself some questions:
1. Why might women respond differently to an unexpected touch than men?
2. What might be the reason why women would see things as sexual assault that you consider innocuous?
3. Why is advising a woman to get a man or police officer to tell a persistent man to back off problematic? Why do you think it’s okay to send the message that a woman must have an authority figure tell men to desist rather than sending the message to men that they need to respect women’s boundaries and requests without requiring intervention from a second party to do so?
4. Would it be okay for me to use force to make you fix my car? What if you’re wearing overalls – is it okay for me to force you then? But if you were intending to work on your friend’s car and were on your way to do it, I could totally make you stop and fix mine instead, right? I could grab you and shove you down under the car and that would be okay, right? No? Then why do you think the way a woman is dressed has any bearing on how men are allowed to treat her?
5. Is it really so fucking hard for men to accept the fact that some people may not respond the same way to touch that they do? Is it really a huge problem to err on the side of not freaking out a stranger and find some way other than touch to get their attention if necessary?
6. Why do you think Carlos and men like him find it so necessary to transgress stated boundaries?
If you can’t think of answers to those questions, shut up and listen to women. 99 out of 100 of them can tell you, if you let them.
I don’t actually care if you agree with Carlos or not. Changing your mind takes time and may never happen. I just want men to stop behaving like him.
And I’d love for you dudes to take some responsibility for the Carloses in your lives. Tell them it’s not okay to talk over women. Tell them it’s not okay for them to decide what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to touching women. Tell them to listen to women when we’re telling them what we need. Tell them the world won’t fucking end if they err on the side of not touching women they’ve never met. Tell them that requiring a male authority before they’ll leave a woman alone is fucking wrong. Tell them that IT IS NEVER EVER OKAY TO USE A WOMAN’S CLOTHING AS AN EXCUSE TO ASSAULT HER. And tell them it’s never okay to use her clothing or even lack thereof to blame her for some jackass assaulting her.
That’ll do for a start.
Here are some resources to get you going.