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Post by inbloomer Thu Apr 01, 2021 12:11 pm

In the UK, in the past few weeks there’s been another big wave of MeToo-style revelations, in particular through the Everyone’s Invited website. This hosts anonymous accounts of sexual assault and rape culture, mostly supplied by young people and so focused especially on schools.

What struck me on reading through is that there is no social group or personality type that perpetrators cannot come from. The accounts cover abusive authority figures, perverts straight from central casting, boys acting in predatory groups (toxic masculinity) … but also good friends whom the victim had known since birth, partners who had seemed great up to that point, and boys who are popular and have great social skills.

The right-wing media seem to have taken two angles on this, which are contradictory but both blame internet porn. One is that oversexualised culture has turned boys into monsters (not like things were in their day); the other is that lots of boys totally get MeToo and have gone too far the other way, seeing real sex as too difficult and dangerous to be worth pursuing. The left-wing media has more taken the line that a lot of this was always happening but is only now coming to light.

What are people’s immediate thoughts on this? I’d be interested to hear reactions before stating mine…

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Post by Enail Thu Apr 01, 2021 2:27 pm

I'd definitely say it's always been happening and is just now coming to light. It's almost funny to me the way when, whenever there's one of these movements, the media acts like it's shocking, like no one knew about this, like it's the first time, and then after it's been around a little while, like it's over and sexual assault and harassment have basically ended. And then it gets forgotten about.
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Post by inbloomer Thu Apr 01, 2021 7:07 pm

Well, that's the case with a lot of scandals: there's lot of outrage when it comes out, but then the media narrative moves on and it gets forgotten, without anything really changing.

When I was at school I think there was little tolerance for openly making girls uncomfortable, and boys mostly liked to think of themselves as being chivalrous and protective. Yet there was a high rate of teen pregnancies, so stuff was happening - I think there was an assumption that once a girl was in a relationship, or if she got drunk at a private party (both common situations with the current revelations), anything she did was her consensual choice.

It doesn't feel like all this is solvable with everyone getting one big "guys, women are people too" lecture. People are finding ways to reconcile seeing themselves as allies and good people with deciding that in some situations, what they want to do outweighs the other person involved not being keen.

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Post by Datelessman Tue Apr 06, 2021 11:56 am

My "immediate thoughts" on this lean to the left; I feel with a great degree of certainly that "things like this," which is a nice way of saying men preying on women in subtle or overt ways, is something which has always been a part of our society and only now is seeming to get more exposure in real time due to the "miracle" of social media and the Internet. When right wingers talk about "a better time" when such things were "rarely heard of," it wasn't that such acts were any rarer; it was that women "knew their place" and either didn't report it or had so few rights and respect compared to now that no one took them as seriously. Heck, ask any woman who has reported a sexual assault these days how "seriously" her local cops took it.

For a little personal history, I was raised by a single mom. She was very frank with me about a variety of things; the details and conversations just got more complicated as I grew older. And one of the things she was always honest about me, especially as he taught me about "good touch" and "bad touch" was that she had been sexually assaulted in her life; in fact, many times. She had been date raped, then gang raped, then sexually molested by a much older family friend for many years. When I was much older I learned second hand that my grandmother (her mother) had also been molested by a divorce lawyer during the 60's, which was a major reason why it was not finalized until the 90's (since she now no longer trusted any lawyers). And as I went about my life and befriended women as a teenager and young adult it didn't take me long to realize that if I got to know them well enough that they trusted me, eventually, to a woman, they would all reveal some horrible incident where either someone had sexually assaulted them, or that someone had attempted to do so and was unsuccessful. Literally every single one who got to trust me that well, including two of my nearest and dearest friends. Statistics say that in America roughly 1 out of every 3 or 4 women is raped or molested in her life, and I dare say, with sadness, that the real figures may be much, much worse. And they have been steady since the 80's, before Twitter or the Internet.

As for how to solve it? That would require getting people -- and primarily, men, although sexual assault can be committed by women too -- to stop seeing other people merely as objects. One could argue some humans seeing others as less-than-human has been the cause of most social ills since we stopped hunting and gathering, so, good luck with that one. In the meantime, sunlight is the best disinfectant, so I say expose the creeps.
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Post by inbloomer Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:22 pm

A very raw and candid answer. I agree all the evidence suggests this kind of thing is very prevalent indeed, though not quite to the extent that you can ever make assumptions about what someone has or hasn't gone through.

Apparently at some point one of Michael Jackson's bodyguards said to him "Look, all this stuff with young boys, sooner or later it's going to get you in a lot of trouble. Why don't you just stop it?" And his answer was "I don't want to".

I do wonder if the real reason for a lot of this is "I don't want to not do it", as opposed to it being the fault of society for giving distorted messages about masculinity.


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Post by Enail Sat Apr 10, 2021 4:15 pm

How do those two things not go together?
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Post by inbloomer Sat Apr 10, 2021 4:51 pm

One is a group deriving its strength from being mean to people outside the group, so the group has a hard boundary rather than a permeable one. The other is individuals deciding that the sexual kicks they get from doing something outweigh both the empathy they have for others and the risks to them of getting caught.

Yes they can go closely together, but I don't think they're quite the same. For example from that site, there was a story about a group of girls who were on the bus when a boisterous group of boys got on and sat down between them and the exit. As each girl got off, every single boy groped their bottoms, which they were deeply upset by but never spoke about again. However, there was also a story about a boy who was very popular and agreed by all to have great social skills and be a great listener. But he was also very handsy with all his female friends, which they knew wasn't right but no-one was calling him out on. So he was doing exactly the same thing as the other group, but not in a toxic masculinity way.


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Post by Enail Sat Apr 10, 2021 5:45 pm

How is the latter not toxic masculinity? Being enabled to get away with things like that because of people excusing it and discouraging women from being that bitch who makes too big deal of things by calling it out is exactly the kind of thing that "society giving distorted messages about masculinity" does. I find your distinction rather bizarre.
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Post by inbloomer Sat Apr 10, 2021 6:28 pm

Because there was no hint at all of other boys/men approving of that behaviour, making excuses for it, or being ready to call a girl who raised it a bitch who made too big a deal of things.

There was a not totally dissimilar situation in my friendship group in high school. There was an on-off couple. The guy regularly pushed the girl into lavish public displays of affection, which were never initiated by her. It never felt quite right at the time, and looking back I would say it definitely wasn't right. I remember another friend of mine (outside that group) remarking that he treated her like a piece of meat. However, she never complained or seemed directly unwilling, she never said anything bad about him, their respective parents strongly approved of the relationship, and he had suffered real tragedy in his life. I don't think any of us approved of or encouraged his behaviour in any way (he made a crude remark about her body at one point, which we did not rise to), but to have stepped in and tackled it would have been a difficult task. You could say he was trying to live up to toxically masculine ideal, but if so for whose benefit? No-one was applauding him.

(They eventually married, though divorced quite soon after. When MeToo came around she was one of the few in my Facebook friends who identified herself with the hashtag, though that might of course have been unrelated.)

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Post by Enail Sat Apr 10, 2021 7:55 pm

I think you're a little confused about the whole "toxic masculinity" thing, to be frank.  On DNL, he tends to focus on the things individual men can do to encourage or discourage overt acts of sexism or harmful machismo, but that isn't the totality of what creates toxic masculinity in our culture in the slightest - it's just the easiest place that he thinks his readers might be able to affect it.

Toxic masculinity isn't just something that is encouraged directly by men cheering it on, it's encouraged directly and indirectly by all parts of society - the teachers that tell girls to cover up because boys will get distracted, the friends who tell the girl who doesn't just play along with the guy who's a little handsy that she's being too dramatic, the dudes arguing on blog posts that catcalling isn't a big deal and anyone who minds is being over-sensitive, as well as the dudes arguing very nicely that it's more important to sooth the feelings of nice men who feel bad when people tell them to consider not approaching women in situations X and Y than it is for women to be able to suggest any boundaries of when men should consider not approaching women, the general norm in our culture that it's okay and normal for men to talk over women while women talk less but get treated as if they talk more, the media that makes female characters rewards for men's heroism or tragedies for their plot arc rather than giving women as many and as important roles of their own in stories, the relatives that buy new baby boys onesies with messages about getting access to boobs...  (And also, many, many, many, many things that don't relate to how men treat women, like the moms and dads that tell their son boys don't cry or people who look down on men who aren't the higher earner in relationships).

It's a broad-ranging pattern that, in subtle and overt ways, both intentional and not, in reaction to specifics or just as part of the air we breath over and over again, tells men that it's right and proper for them to perform masculinity in certain ways that are harmful to them and other people, including feeling entitled to women's bodies, while teaching women that they should put up with it. Toxic masculinity is being able to say "but I don't want to not use women's bodies in the ways I feel like it"  - and having that be a viable and sometimes actively encouraged thing to do, because so much of the world is invested in them being able to do that.
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Post by inbloomer Sun Apr 11, 2021 2:55 pm

I do understand that, I just think we have to accept that sexual misconduct can happen everywhere, even within societies, sub-cultures and groups where there is a high level of apparent equality and low tolerance for casual sexism (e.g. the Nordic countries). I see it as like bullying - a mould that can get a foothold anywhere, and it's not a good starting point to think your group is immune because some other sexist behaviours (the onesies?!?) are things none of you would ever do in a million years.

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Post by Enail Sun Apr 11, 2021 6:29 pm

I don't really follow your point.
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Post by Datelessman Mon Apr 12, 2021 2:17 pm

I admit I am also becoming confused about some of the specifics of what you mean, inbloomer.

You seem to think there is a difference between toxic/bad male behavior that is socially approved of versus behavior that happens but is looked down upon by peers and/or behavior that is accepted by women (or a particular woman) for various reasons. I think at best those differences are really either in details or semantics but in general, toxic male behavior takes on many forms and may be obvious or subtle, and it's only been in recent times where there have been concentrated efforts to, at least, call it our or change it.

But as someone famous for making long posts and contradicting myself a few times within them or getting caught up on details, maybe this is "pot calling kettle black" territory. Shrug
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Post by inbloomer Mon Apr 12, 2021 6:33 pm

OK I'll try once more.

It is a very commonly repeated line that sexual assault is about power, not about sex. (Just Google it if proof required.) Believing it allows you to focus your fire on power dynamics in society while still being all happy-clappy sex-positive, i.e. cherry-pick the aspects of the problem that it suits you to acknowledge.

I am saying there is more and more evidence that people will commit sexual misconduct even in situations where there is absolutely nothing wrong with the power dynamics. Even when they know perfectly well that they shouldn't do this, and that even if they get away with it this one time they will probably face bad consequences in the end. They can't or won't control their temptation.

Not everyone is like that, of course. But there are clearly enough of them that it's a widespread problem, and enough of those who are good enough at masking their behaviour to win people's trust in the first place.

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Post by Datelessman Mon Apr 12, 2021 7:17 pm

The power dynamic thing is tricky because part of the problem with toxic masculinity is that it merges with the concept of "male superiority" that permeates in most societies. Even in a situation where, in theory, two people of two genders have the same "power" from a social and/or economic sense (i.e. two people in a homeless shelter or two corporate executives), the man may believe, and be backed up by actual evidence in society, that he is superior and should get what he wants simply because he is a man. So it could be argued that equality is rarely achieved. That is why there's been a whole movement to achieve it since, more or less, the beginning of civilization. It's only become more overt within the last 25-40 years.

(And this is not entirely an American problem or even a Western society problem. Plenty of Asian or Middle Eastern countries have this problem, sometimes more so.)

As for saying that people exist who know the consequences and that their actions are "bad" and will do them anyway...yes? That's always been true. Sociopaths and psychopaths have also been apart of us forever.

You appear to be saying there is a difference between people who commit acts of toxic masculinity out of sheer ignorance and/or because their upbringing made them believe certain things (i.e. "society is to blame" or taken to an extreme, "affluenza") and those people who are fully aware of how wrong sexual misconduct is but do it anyway because they're malicious or selfish creeps. And that is true, which is why we have varying levels of crimes and what to charge them. A man who, say, gropes a woman usually is charged with a different crime than one who rapes a woman, and a man who does that is charged with a different crime if he kidnaps, then rapes her, or if he tries to kill her, etc. And I am not sure if anyone really disputes this.

Maybe you may have some circles online or off which have a zealous "hang 'em high" mentality whether it's someone acting out of "ignorance" one time versus a serial date rapist, but I don't think they're as vast as they appear. And considering that at least a third of all women (and a notable percentage of men) are sexually assaulted, a lot of that zeal comes from genuine pain, and should be seen in that context. I mean, if I read a comment somewhere on Jezebel or something where a woman claims, "rapists should be shot!" I don't think, "oh, what a harpy," I think, "She likely has suffered at the hands of a man like that and her trauma is still vivid and raw." We all react to hurt differently and we all heal, or don't heal, at our own pace.

I do feel the root of many problems the concept that some people see others as lessor than them, or as objects, for either deluded or self serving reasons. And this has been a tough nut for civilized humanity (which has mostly been run by rule systems designed and enforced by men) to crack.
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Post by Enail Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:39 pm

I'd agree there are some people who will do bad things even when they are likely to have consequences. But I really don't see where you're getting the idea it's a large percentage rather than a very small subset compared to all the people who do bad things when they believe they can get away with them or that the consequences won't be bad enough to dissuade them.  We've all seen that one person who gets fired from job after job because they "just get so mad" that they scream at their boss; that doesn't mean that there aren't lots of people who "just get so mad" when it's their underlings or their family but somehow have never lost their temper at their boss.

What evidence are you referring to? The only thing you've mentioned that resembles evidence at all is that Nordic countries, which are relatively high in gender equality on many fronts, have problems with rape etc.  However, the idea that relatively high gender equality on many fronts means those regions are a paradise of total gender equality where there is no power imbalance between men and women is absolutely not true. this Amnesty International report on the subject discusses the fact that, although they were early with voting rights and have some of the best workplace policies for gender equality and the lowest workplace gender gaps, police and the legal systems are often dismissive of sexual violence - and in fact in each of the Nordic countries, rape is apparently only defined as violent rape (and possibly excludes intimate partner rape altogether?) - and hampered by harmful myths about rape and gender stereotypes, both in the justice system and among the general population. Frex, a survey cited in that report showed that 28% of male respondants (ETA: In Norway, I think, I forgot to specify that when I wrote it and can't remember for 100% sure which country) consider a woman partially responsible for her own rape if she had flirted with the man who raped her. I'm skeptical that there's anywhere in the world where gender inequality and sexist views are basically eliminated in both overt and subtle forms.

You're making some pretty sweeping assertions here that seem a little off to me, and the impression it's giving me is rather like you think that just because you personally don't see sexism happening, it's not happening; I'm sure you realize that's not the case and that your ideas here have another foundation, but some details on what you're basing these thoughts on would make it easier for me to see what that is.
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