I’m passionate about many things. But typically, I save my activism for championing the trans* community, because it’s tiring to try to fix too many cultural failings at once, and that one is dear to my heart. Even writing blog posts or commenting on other posts is something I generally avoid unless I have something positive to say.
But not today.
Today I have a problem. Someone retweeted this post from Barry Lyga into my feed earlier. It’s titled “Remember that They’re Kids,” and I expected to find something about his readership and respecting your audience as a YA writer. And hey, there’s some of that in there. There’s some great stuff to remember about the power dynamic between fans and the celebrity, especially when the fans are children. But there’s also a whole shitload of blame assigned where there shouldn’t be.
Take this line. This line from that post basically sums up my whole problem with it:
“I am a grown-ass man. Grown-ass men do not put their arms around underage girls to whom they are not related. Period.”
Do me a favor and think about that statement. Really think about it. Then answer this question:
And now I want you to consider the answer you just came up with in your head. “Well, because obviously, Jessie, grown-ass men might . . .” They might what?
No really, what? What are you assuming?
Look, I’m not attacking Lyga. Lemme get that out of the way. And he didn’t say “all men are rapists and therefore can’t hug girls.” But the line of thinking underlying this entire post is one that strengthens rape culture. By making a rule about the interactions between adult men and young girls and thus assuming that men will behave badly, we accept this bad behavior as a cultural norm. (Um, because if we didn’t, the rule wouldn’t exist). We assume, of course grown men can’t hug girls, because they have bad intentions! Or maybe (as Lyga suggested) they have good intentions, but if they hug her, they might “accidentally do something they regret.” It’s a slippery slope; men can’t be expected to resist the temptation that might arise from hugging a young girl. She’s a fan; she asked for it. Look how she was dressed!
I call bullshit.
“But, Jessie, it’s not about what the men might do. I don’t think all men are rapists and pedophiles. It’s what other people think. The men don’t want to get in trouble, so they obviously can’t hug the girl.”
Why is this even an issue? Think about this: why would a man get blamed for something he didn’t do? For something he didn’t even think about doing? Why does he need to be afraid of hugging a girl because someone might think he wants to take advantage of her? Why might someone think that? BECAUSE THEY ASSUME HE IS GUILTY.
Okay, okay. I’m simmering. Why do we assume the man is guilty? Because we’ve accepted that men rape. That’s it. That’s the baseline. Supposedly, there’s no fixing that. That’s why rape prevention focuses on victims, on how they should dress or act or plan in order to not be raped, rather than on how rapists should not be rapists. Because apparently, grown-ass men can’t be held accountable for their actions. Which, again, *cough*bullshit*cough*
SO. How about we can this crap, and everyone take responsibility for their thoughts/feelings/urges/actions? Because in my world, a man can be a good person and hug a teenage girl without taking advantage of her in any way.