I have a problem with the assumption of male guilt.

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:

Why not?

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.

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10 comments

  1. OMG Jesse I luv you!

    & I think my dad luv’s you too, though he doesn’t know you. About 5-6 years ago, when my niece, dad’s granddaughter, was about 5 or 6, dad was talking about this very thing.
    He said, & I quote (because I remember every word)

    “How dreadfully sad is it that, in a society and a time when children can have anything and everything, the one thing now denied to them is embrace, love and affection?”

    The conversation went on further, dad talking about how he hugged his children freely, of how he never thought twice about his friends showing affection, giving birthday hugs (etc.) to his children and how now, every move by a grown man toward a small child, even his own child, is treated with suspicion & even condemnation.

    As dad said, it’s not the paedophiles that are being affected by this new *fashion* of do not touch in an innocent way, everyone knows rapists & paedophiles are pure evil. The ones to suffer from this do-not-touch and/or every-man-is-a-paedophile philosophy, are the children.

    We take our pets, cats, dogs… whatever. Not that long ago, few people had a pet inside the house. Dogs protected the house and cats kept the rats out of the chicken pen.Now we know better. They cuddle and snuggle us, and we, and they, are happier for it.

    Yet we now put our children in emotional cages as the new untouchable pet & wonder why they grow up suspicious, distant and unable to express emotion with physical actions?

  2. I used to work as a lifeguard and I remember one time my supervisor nearly having a heart attack when a little boy, who he was about to administer First Aid to, tried to follow him into the staff room where the first aid box was kept. He was petrified of being alone with this small child because it would be so easy for people to think something bad had happened. I was seventeen and it scared me that this guy had to worry more about people thinking he was a paedophile than giving this kid first aid.

    Things only seem to have gotten worse from there and more and more men are guilty until… uh… well, no that’s the end of that sentence.

  3. Wow. Mind blown.

    This is a really interesting and scary topic. As a teacher and a dance teacher no less! this is a really important topic. I’m often confronted with the dilemma of if I should I touch students, and then how, where, when and why – it gets really messy. Even as a woman, this is cause for serious concern because I teach teenage boys. Why should it be okay for me to place the girls’ arms correctly or help them find the correct posture by pressing a hand on their backs etc. but that not be okay when it comes to teaching my male students? And what if I was a guy, would the rules be different? A slippery slope indeed!

    I don’t have answers to any of these questions, but this is something I am acutely aware of every time I step onto school property and I sympathise with Lyga to some extent because in my situation, if anything seemed untoward, there would be an automatic assumption of guilt placed on the teacher.

    Great discussion!

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