Yesterday, as part of a Take Back The Night thing at my college, a pretty prominent member of our sexual assault advocacy network hosted a discussion on How Men Can Help Prevent Sexual Assault. Typical of my college, the talk started late and thus was cut short, which in a way sort of sucked, since I felt that there was a lot more to be said on the subject. That, in combination with the fact that more of the female attendees insisted on answering every question rather than prodding the male attendees to respond, meant that in some ways I don’t think the discussion quite achieved its purpose.
That all being said, it was still a pretty awesome thing. A few of the menfolk really did contribute, which was great to see, and it was better attended than I expected (which, granted, isn’t saying much). A drop in the bucket, but, still, a pretty rockin’ drop in the bucket if you ask me.
That’s not the really cool thing, though.
The really cool thing was that one of the guys who contributed the most happened to be the significant other of a friend/acquaintance. So, when I ran into him today in the cafeteria, I stopped to say “hey, thanks for being there last night”.
He looked at me, surprised and confused, and replied, “Why are you thanking me? You don’t need to do that. It was really interesting, and important. Seriously.” And he smiled and we said “see ya” and that was that.
I guess it’s a sad reflection on the times, that a) I did, on some level, feel the need to thank him, and b) that I was so absolutely floored by his response to it. But it made me incredibly happy to run across a guy who, sincerely, did not expect or want to have a party thrown in his honor just for taking the time to acknowledge that sexual violence is a problem.
Especially at a liberal arts college, you run into a lot of the “I’m going to throw the word ‘patriarchy’ around, and that absolves me of anything sexist or misogynistic I may ever do” guys, and a lot of the “I’m going to not rape this drunk girl and expect a fucking medal for it (and be angry when I don’t get one)” guys.
So it’s super refreshing that this kid – athletic, outgoing, with a heavy Eastern European accent – was genuinely perplexed and uncomfortable with the idea of being thanked for taking an interest in very real, very serious problems on campus.