Good Men Don’t Assault Women, Period.

Good Men Don’t Assault Women, Period. June 9, 2016
The Theological and Cardinal Virtues by Bottocelli via https://commons.wikimedia.org| PD-US

***This obviously deals with a sensitive topic, and includes some of the victim’s own, validly graphic, words about the attack. So you can choose not to read this, if that could upset, enrage, or trigger you***

Let’s talk about the Stanford rape, Brock Turner, and men.

In my life I have had the pleasure of knowing more than a few good men. This group includes my father and other men I am related too. It also includes men I have dated, men I have befriended, and men who fall one way or another into both camps. Apparently this is luck- something I would have wished for if I had known to do so. In part, this is because I have a lot of guy friends. They aren’t the sort that pretend to seek virtue or pretend to be good to get at you. They are the type who truly, deeply, really are good, and I pray daily that they will have the grace to never be otherwise. Because some women have known men they thought were good, men who were good in seeming. And I have such respect for and trust in my male friends that I cannot believe they would be otherwise, and I hope they never are because there is apparently a huge dearth of good men in this world, and they are the ones I know. And there are women who have thought this and been wrong, and the world is far worse for that.

Moreover, besides the pleasure of knowing more than a few good men, I, a twenty-something, Catholic female who has more than a few years of graduate studies and city living under her belt, have drank alcohol before. Since it’s apparently not ladylike to admit to getting drunk, I will for the sake of decorum and maintaining the decline of the smelling salts industry, let it suffice to say that I have certainly drank to the point of hilarity and to the point of tossing my keys to a friend. I am a woman. I have drank alcohol. I have probably flirted with men while doing so. Some, to my later chagrin, may have been the good men I call my friends (sorry guys).

Being a woman, who has at times indulged in alcohol in the company of men, I realized there was something I had not done. I had never sat and worried about my safety or the actions of these men while any of us have indulged, because they are good men, and good men don’t rape women.

Because they are good men, I know that none of them would have behaved as barbarically and evilly as Turner did, with or without alcohol in their systems. This is not to imply my male friends are radical feminists- an attribution is fair neither to them nor to radical feminists. They are, mostly, country men or academics of the tweed and scotch brand of men who go on to marry and raise large families with their wives. My guy friends taught me to drink (appletinis and scotch). My guy friends have been the brothers I never had and always secretly wanted. My guy friends have seen me and other women both with high spirits and crying with and without alcohol. And no matter who has had what to drink, I have never seen them ever treat a woman with anything less than respect whether or not she was drinking. Not because they “had to” or couldn’t have done otherwise, but because they are good men and want to be good men, and good men don’t assault women.

This, apparently, is something radical. It shouldn’t be radical. It’s not about being feminist. It’s not feminist to not rape a woman. It’s called having some basic level of natural virtue where you act with temperance and justice. 

Men who are raised with some modicum of the natural virtues don’t assault women, not because they are concerned about consent or the outcome. They don’t assault women because good men don’t assault women. 

As Emily Doe, the victim of the attack, wrote in her powerful letter to the court following the 6 month sentence for 3 felony convictions,

Future reference, if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence. You couldn’t even do that. Just one coherent string of words. Where was the confusion? This is common sense, human decency.”

That is what was lacking in Turner when he chose to take advantage of an inebriated woman: common human decency. Plain, natural virtue, akin to common sense, is apparently uncommonly practiced. My guy friends don’t assault women when they are drunk because they don’t think about how women are “for” their pleasure or about assaulting women they are sober (drunk ideas don’t come ex nihilo kids). And they certainly wouldn’t have the gall to claim that alcohol is a literal get out jail free excuse for harming a woman. As the victim so cogently explained to the court:

Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.”

It’s not simply about their choices. Some people have brought up culture—the hookup culture, the asking for it culture, the party culture, the culture of low morality. All that is well and good. But it’s not enough to throw our hands up in disgust at the culture. People drink. Sometimes even good people drink too much. And simply because anyone, male or female, does so, by choice or by accident, by wearing a short skirt or a long jacket, does not change the fact that:

“Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong. Why am I still explaining this.”

Here’s the cultural difference, and this is one that should not be a conservative/liberal divide. My guy friends don’t assault women because their fathers, their brothers, their mothers, their sisters, and their friends would kill them first for behaving so horrifically. That is the culture that opposes rape culture: one where men are called to virtue and told the consequences are far worse than legal. Good men aren’t the men who win in court, or who only have 3 months of incarceration. Good men are those who just don’t rape women ever. They don’t assault women, ever. They do not break the trust of women close to them in such a horrific way, ever. They do nothing that could ever remotely be construed to be any of those sorts of things, ever. Good men are those who do everything they can to protect another from harm. Men who harm another, in particular men who harm women, are not good men. 

But more than that, good men don’t assault women because good men don’t assault women. Because good men respect and defend women regardless of the alcohol level in their bloodstream. Because there are things that are never acceptable. Because good men do not place their desires, whims, and pleasure above another human person’s life or well-being.

Emily continues in her letter:

“Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”

Good men understand that a woman is a person and as such cannot be reduced to a mere object of pleasure. They are willing to sacrifice before such a situation arises, throughout their lives, to remind themselves that women are people, not objects of pleasure. I see them strive to train themselves in virtue so that there is never a situation where they could harm a woman, and there is no amount of alcohol which would ever lead them to do so, because they have refused to view women as objects when they are in their right minds. This isn’t to say it is easy, or that men don’t have to fight tooth and nail, often against seemingly normative behaviors, to be those good men. But because they fight and continue to fight even after a momentary sober lapse in their own minds to view women as people, and as long as they continue to do so, no woman will have to say to them:

“You should have never done this to me. Secondly, you should have never made me fight so long to tell you, you should have never done this to me. But here we are. The damage is done, no one can undo it.”

From seeing my guy friends’ caution to never let anything happen to anyone when we have all been out,  I know many of them would have been like the Swedes, refusing to allow another man harm a woman, even if it meant putting themselves at risk.

Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.”

Good men do not assault women, nor do they allow others to do so. Men who assault women, or allow others to do so, are not good men. Apparently the former is very rare. I am lucky to know so many good men.

To my guy friends, I would like to say: You are good men because you have never treated a woman like this. You are good men because being good has far less to do with alcohol and far more to do with choice. You are good men because you choose to do what is right, not at the times where it counts, but in a hundred little ways when it seems like it doesn’t. You are good men not simply because you don’t harm women, but because you strive to live a life of virtue with vigilance.

See beyond not harming women, I have the pleasure of knowing men who are good in ways far exceeding a mere not assaulting of women. They are good men not merely for what they don’t do, but for what they do. They are good men for living in a way that is hard. For training themselves to choose virtue over vice, others over themselves, and for teaching their children, siblings, and others through their words and actions to do likewise. They are good men because they have learned and continue to learn sacrifice. And though they, like I, have miles to go before we sleep, they continually work to choose what is good for it’s own sake.

Gentlemen, I thank you for that, because I have never for a second had to think twice around you all. Apparently, this is rare and heroic.

Thank you, gentlemen, for never making it anything but obvious to me that good men don’t harm women, and men who harm women are not good men. Period.

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