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Feb 06 2013

Booty Slap Day

Jessica Valenti has a great article in The Nation, written as a letter to male relatives on Facebook who “like” things like haha-funny videos of men running up to women to grab their bums. Haha funny, right? Great joke?

Here’s the thing: those guys running up to women just to grab their ass? Stuff like that happens to women all the time. It’s happened to me. When I was your age, guys—from boys in school to men on the subway—used to grope and touch me against my will too. I don’t know if any of them videotaped it or if they did it as a “joke”—all I know was that it was really scary.

Well yes but that’s your problem. If women don’t like it, that’s their problem. It’s fun for the guys who do it – that’s the important thing. Obviously.

I know that a quick click on the “like” button may not seem like a big deal to you—but it scares me to think about the larger implications. I think about the high school kid in Steubenville, Ohio, joking and laughing about the unconscious teen girl in the next room who had just been raped by two of his classmates. That may seem a million miles away from “liking” a video—but it’s all part of the same world, the same culture that devalues women. Even laughing at a joke about rape supports the idea that women are less than and makes rapists think that you are like them. And the more you laugh at this stuff, the easier it becomes to take the ideas you’re laughing at more and more seriously.

But it’s funny and you’re not the boss of me and nobody get to tell me what I can laugh at or what I can call a bitch cunt woman who is talking when I want her to shut the fuck up!

Listen, I don’t think you’re an asshole who thinks it’s funny to do something that women find scary. You’ve been raised to think that this sort of stuff is all in good fun. Not by your parents necessarily, but by culture. You’ve grown up in a country where a Super Bowl commercial for Audi suggests that girls your age actually like it when a guy they don’t really know grabs and forces a kiss on them. (Seriously—they won’t like this.) You’ve been raised in a culture that positions women as existing just for sex, for humiliation, for objectification.

Well, yes, but also, one hopes, by people who know better and teach their sons better. Some have. I know lots of men who have! Or who at least learned better at some point, because they for sure know better now. But alas, there are lots of the other kind out there too.

So please understand that I don’t blame you for partaking in the only kind of culture you’ve ever known. At least, I don’t blame you yet. Because here’s the thing—if you didn’t realize before that this kind of stuff is harmful and hurtful to women, now you do. So think of this as a chance to make a decision about what kind of man you’re going to be.

As you continue to grow up, you’re going to have plenty of opportunities (too many) to laugh at women’s pain, embarrassment or the sexual harassment and assault we face. These moments will define you. Will you laugh along? Share a video, like a status, laugh at a joke? Or will you say “no,” tell a friend that’s a fucked-up thing to say, and walk away?

Choose door number two!!

Seriously: I can’t stress this enough: choose the second option. Don’t grow up to laugh at women’s pain, embarrassment, humiliation,  or sexual harassment and assault. It’s not a good way to be.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Lou Doench

    The worst part about that Audi commercial was that it could easily be debugged.
    Boy goes to prom alone (hint that his date went with someone else)
    Dad loans Boy his Audi. Boy becomes James Bond en route to prom.
    Boy parks car in principal’s spot, enters prom confidently, taps homecoming king on shoulder as he dances with homecoming queen, who is revealed to be his ex. (make the hck a jerk, this should be easy, many are). The couple take a quick spin around the dance floor before the hck intervenes.
    Cut to closing scene. Now our hero hasn’t committed gross sexual imposition and I can root for him without feeling icky.
    No I’m still not buying an Audi.

  2. 2
    jaggington

    That advert disgusts me. It encapsulates the privilege of those whose wealth, power and position place them beyond society’s rules and regulations. If you had told me instead that it was a video entry in a competition to summarise Rape Culture in a minute, I would have thought it had won first prize.

  3. 3
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Now our hero hasn’t committed gross sexual imposition

    Maybe not, but your rewrite still treats the girl as chattel to be fought over as opposed to a person.

    How about, Audi turns him into James Bond and when he gets to the dance his confidence and resulting bonhomie attract some glances, and the prom queen comes up and asks *him* to dance?

    (Actually, my progressive dream rewrite would have his secret crush be another guy–maybe the hck–and he now has the confidence to ask him to dance. Scratch that. Make the driver a girl.)

  4. 4
    Sastra

    Reminds me of this.

  5. 5
    Lou Doench

    @Ibis3, Oh yeah, those are definitely better. I was just going for bare minimum “lets do this without our protagonist committing a crime” rewrite. Baby steps, these people are in advertising after all.

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