• Giugi Carminati

Actually "Good" Guys Would Fight Like Hell Against Victim Blaming.

When I was in law school,. I had a wonderful nanny. She was upbeat, reliable, patient, and adorable to my son. She was also gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. Classmates would ask me how I could feel comfortable leaving my husband alone with her. This refrain became a really common one, specifically when I hired a new Au Pair (often, although not always, a woman). When I relayed this to my husband, his response was surprising (and informative). He didn't get defensive. He didn't take it as an attack on him. Instead, he quietly said, "That says a lot about the men in their lives." And, although it was years ago, I've thought about that a lot since. He saw it as an indictment of men. The same comes to mind, for me (among other things), when I hear victim blaming statements.

Evidently, this post is triggered in part by Harvey Weinstein's attorney's statements regarding the fact she had never been assaulted because she would "never put herself in that situation." Sure, we an spill "ink" on the fallacy of that statement, on the fact it discounts women, on the fact it is a fundamental cause of the continued violence against women, on the fact that this type of attitude is incredible harmful to victims. But others have addressed this. What I want to talk about, for just a moment, is how this harms men - good men.

Victim blaming tells women that something about their behavior was lacking and that they failed to keep themselves safe. Victim blaming tells women that sexual assault is their fault because they not only attracted sexual attention but, more importantly, that men simply cannot control themselves once this attention has been sought. At its core, and taken to its logical conclusion, victim blaming assumes that women need to keep themselves safe from men because men are inherently dangerous. It assumes men cannot comply with boundaries. It assumes men and women cannot engage in consensual behavior except in very limited circumstances. It assumes the worst of men. And this should make "good guys" irate.

Victim blaming accepts such a low standard for men that it exonerates them. Now, yes, this exoneration hurts victims. But, it also hurts men. When we set standards this low, we fail to see men as full human beings. It also becomes natural to deprive them of humanity, compassion, and kindness. Victimblamers create a standard for men that makes predatory behavior "normal" and therefore "manly." This, in turn, makes consent-seeking behavior "unmanly" and weak. If you don't believe me, think of male interactions, college culture, and how hard it is for men to stand up for women and boundaries when they are in each other's company.

This is how victimblaming becomes a lynch pin of rape culture. Not only does it reinforce that victims are to blame (rather than their perpetrators) but it creates a normality that men have to fight against internally, within a culture that treats them as "less than" if they do. And this is a way in which victimblaming enables rape. How? Like this.

As I say in my talks on the subject, while not every sexual harasser is a rapist, every rapist benefits from a culture where sexual harassment is acceptable. The same can be said about apologists. While not every apologist is a rapist, every rapist benefits from a society where apologists get traction. That is because people do things they think they can get away with. Apologists and sexual harassers, especially when they are not condemned or when their arguments get traction, reinforce the idea that this behavior is normal. In doing so, it renders self-policing among them a lot more difficult. But we need self-policing; one key aspect of addressing rape culture is for the "good" guys to gain legitimacy, within their peers, as standard bearers rather than outcasts. As long as victimblaming is a thing, the "good guys" are the outcasts. This is a disservice to them and to victims.

Unfortunately, the solution to that issue has to come from the same problematic place: men. Men have to take hard, public, vocal stances regarding victimblaming, And they have to be supported in doing so. This is the only thing that will actually tip the scales.

Bottom line: we need to expect better from the men in our lives, and if they falter, hold them to the standard rather than lowering the standard.

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