Cock-blocking and rape culture

Cock-blocking and rape culture September 23, 2014

the bootIt’s one of those phrases you know not to use in mixed company. But there’s a code of honor among heterosexual young adult men at bars and parties. To use nineties parlance, when another man is “busting a move” or “getting his mack on” with a woman, you don’t interfere. Because that’s “cock-blocking.” And I have no idea why it wasn’t completely obvious to me before that this unspoken law of young adult male sexual “ethics” is a cornerstone of rape culture.

In my first two months of campus ministry, nothing has been more disturbing than getting re-exposed to the ubiquity of campus rape culture. When I was in college, I knew that women got raped. I even knew that the percentage was alarmingly high. I knew women personally who were survivors. What I didn’t recognize was the degree to which I myself was contributing to a cultural attitude about sex that makes rape happen. I simply thought that sex was the reward for being a smooth pickup artist at the bars and parties I went to. Rape was breaking the rules by using force. But I never recognized that framing sex as a manipulative conquest is already misogynistic and helps produce rape culture.

Oh, I definitely believed that premarital sex was a sinful temptation, but as an evangelical Christian, I defined sin as something between me and God. My sexuality had nothing to do with behaving justly or unjustly towards other human beings. See, I’d heard evangelical preachers praise the “virtue” of King David telling God, “Against you alone have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4) after he’d raped a woman and murdered her husband. When sexual sin is strictly a question of “holiness” between you and God, then your duty as a young Christian man is to avoid letting yourself get “baited” by seductive women so that you can stay pure for God. And of course the duty of young Christian women is to avoid being sexually attractive to Christian men and to fend them off successfully if they happen to “fall.”

George Will wrote a very offensive column that captures the typical conservative response to the problem of rape culture, which he dismisses as the “cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.” In other words, you liberals wanted a sexual revolution and now look at what a mess you’ve made of it! If you don’t want rape culture, stop having premarital sex.

The ancient “solution” to the problem of rape was patriarchy. As long as women were under the protection of their fathers or husbands, they were “safe” (presuming that the men in their lives were benevolent dictators and not abusers). And of course if they happened to get raped by a man who just couldn’t control himself, that was an easy fix — just do a shotgun wedding! Over the past several decades of backlash against the sexual revolution, many conservatives have been promoting a return to patriarchy that features things like daddies pledging to protect their daughters’ virginity at purity balls and young men and women entering into courtships with elaborate contracts between them, their parents, and pastors (see Addie Zierman’s When We Were On Fire).

So what would a non-patriarchal response to rape culture look like? I think we need to do more than just sit boys down and remind them over and over again that no means no and someone who is drunk can’t say yes. Honestly, those boundaries should be self-evident and obvious to anyone with even a kindergarten level of social awareness. What we’re up against is not genuine ignorance, but a very toxic, powerful socialization that all men in our culture have received from the way that capitalism uses sex to make money.

Men have been socialized to view sex as entitled consumers. Women’s bodies are products made for our consumption. One Tulane student blog actually refers to women’s bodies as “burgahs,” sharing this gem of a poem: “Buns golden brown / A carnivores delight / I’ve seen you down town / And I want you tonight.” And no, I’m not going to link to it! I don’t want to give him traffic. It’s a great example of the predatory attitude that lays a foundation for rape culture.

Men need to be deprogrammed in a very fundamental way. That’s important work that I see as a major part of my role as a campus minister. In the meantime, we need to have whole communities full of unashamed “cock-blockers.” I’m not saying that men should not be held responsible for their own behavior. But since too many men refuse to behave responsibly, the bystanders at clubs and parties need to feel empowered to intervene when predatory behavior is occurring that can lead to rape. Tulane is going to be doing some bystander intervention training this year that I hope will be helpful.

I just don’t think sex needs to happen the way that it’s come to be normalized in the world of hookups and one-night flings. If some dude is trying to manipulate an intoxicated stranger into spending the night with him, whether or not he’s actually slipped something into her drink, I think it’s perfectly legitimate to hijack his conversation and sabotage his plans. I’m not trying to take any of the onus off of rapists for what they do. But we have normalized a script for sexual behavior that is very easy for predators to exploit. We need to be more proactive as a community on the prevention side of rape culture. In addition to building a culture where survivors are respected and their rapists are prosecuted, we need to build a culture where communities take responsibility for keeping everyone safe.

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  • summers-lad

    This is a good post. I’m just home from leading a Bible study centred on Micah 6:8, so I particularly appreciated your emphasis on acting justly.
    When I was a student many years ago, as a sheltered Christian I was blissfully unaware of the kind of behaviour you describe. I would guess that few if any of the students who lived that way ever came into contact with campus ministry. Your ministry is important and exciting. God bless you.

  • Becky Rouzer Northcutt

    One of the purposes of patriarchal culture is to keep young women isolated so that their fathers can choose who to rape. The rate of incest in the Quiverfull movement is higher than in the general public. Also in Amish culture, where girls are expected to forgive but men are not held accountable. A non-patriarchal response is definitely what is needed.

    • Benjamin Martin

      “The rate of incest…”

      Cite?

      • Fraga123

        No need for patriarchal “data” and “statistics” here, MRA. Back off.

        • Benjamin Martin

          Thanks for a perfect illustration of Poe’s Law, i.e., it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism.

          • Fraga123

            Social justice and feminist empowerment are real, MRA.
            Get with the program.

          • Benjamin Martin

            Can you illustrate Poe’s Law thrice? (Hopefully mention of a numeral isn’t more of that patriarchal data.)

          • Fraga123

            Why don’t you acknowledge your male privilege and bow out of this discussion. We need a Safe Space without patriarchy in order to speak freely.

          • Benjamin Martin

            Bravo! You da man!

  • Guest

    “So men need to be deprogrammed in a very fundamental way.”

    I have an idea, why don’t you post flyers around campus offering men free deprogramming classes. Make sure your inform them that the ideology behind these classes is based on some odd hybrid of progressive Christianity and feminism. After you complete that task, please let me know how many guys show up. If its more than three, I’ll have NOLA Wesley Foundation tattooed on my ass.

    • Joe

      I really don’t know what you’re trying to say here, beyond “guys don’t want to admit that they might be part of the problem.” Well, that and “let’s make up the most absurd solution so we can mock the whole concept.”

    • Actually I think the odds of there being more than three men at Tulane who aren’t cowardly misogynist assholes are pretty good.

  • Benjamin Martin

    > someone who is drunk can’t say yes
    “Honeymoon” comes from alcoholic “honey” mead given as a gift from the bride’s family to promote pregnancy within one “moonth.”

  • Christyinlosangeles

    I’m so glad that you are focusing on bystander education. I think that is a vital piece of rape prevention. People are much more likely to intervene in a potentially predatory situation if they have been given the tools to do so – and if they know they won’t be alone.

    And education on consent and what consent means for both men and women is incredibly important too. It SEEMS obvious, but it isn’t. I worked with youth for many years, and in my experience, most parents don’t do much in the way of sex education beyond “this is how babies are made” and maybe a discussion of puberty. Most evangelical and Catholic churches don’t discuss consent, as you noted. Take into account the number of young people who only had abstinence education in school, and you’ve got a whole lot of young people who have never thought about or talked about consent and what it means. (I know I was in my twenties before I heard a discussion of consent.) You’d be surprised at how many people – both men and women – are fuzzy on the concept.

    And my response to the George Will column would be to say that a) he should take a little time to examine the rape problem at places like Patrick Henry College and Pensacola Christian College. Trust me – alcohol and liberalism are not the issue there
    and b) while rape on college campuses is certainly a problem, rape is not more prevalent on campuses than it is elsewhere for that age group. Campus rape gets more attention – but it’s not like the less privileged who don’t go to college are any safer.

    • I appreciate your point about consent education. It seems so freaking self-evident, but I definitely understand the need to actually have a serious conversation about it so that teens are actually talking about and reflecting on it before they’re in the moment.

  • Bill98

    “Men have been socialized to view sex as entitled consumers”.

    Quite the opposite is true. Men have been socialized to view sex as something that they must earn, at whatever cost. It is a prize to be bestowed upon them, but only if they prove themselves worthy. If they do not have “sufficient” conquests, they are judged to be “losers”. If alternate means of sexual gratification exist for them, these will be denounced as “dirty”, or made illegal. All in the name of granting women power over men’s sexuality.

    At the same time, rape is regarded as a crime, and is punished severely by society. So much so, that the mere accusation is enough to ruin a man’s life.

    So, there is no cause to “deprogram” men, at least not in the manner that the author suggests. Only rapists view sex as an entitlement, which they can claim at any time. And, if it need be said, most men, and women, aren’t rapists.

    • Kelly Moore

      The problem is, rape is hardly punished at all, and a predatory attitude towards “getting sex” is encouraged in young men. Hence, the high school boys who keep score and aim to be in “Hundred Clubs.” I may be entirely out of touch, but i don’t think you find this kind of behavior in young women, even today.

      You are right, of course — most young men are not rapists (just about 6%), but a more significant percent of young men feel awkward engaging in behavior they perceive as “cock-blocking.” I commend the author for encouraging the many fine young men out there to help change the culture that accepts acquaintance rape as some kind of aggressive “seduction.” I don’t know why ANYone would criticize Mr. Guyton for this decent and laudatory goal.

      • John Suni

        “The problem is, rape is hardly punished at all”

        Really? Tell that to the Duke 3. Or try telling it to the men freed by the innocence project–most of whom were wrongly imprisoned for rape who were freed when DNA tech exonerated men from 20 to 25 year sentences.

        Try telling that to the #2 target of prison beatdowns following pedophiles.

        Try telling that to the many teen boys railroaded into pleading guilty of rape before the romeo and juliet laws because she was 1 year younger than age of consent and he was 1 year over.

        Try opening your eyes once in a while.

        • Joe

          (a) Did you really upvote yourself? That’s pretty gauche.

          (b) I’ll see your Duke 3 (for whom the proceedings actually turned out quite favorably, contrary to your implications) and raise you Steubenville. All of the media attention before, during, and after was focused on how those poor boys were having their lives ruined by all of this. As for the Innocence Project, I took a look, and it’s amazing how few of them were convicted solely of rape – and how many were people of color. It’s almost like rape wasn’t the major player in their convictions.

    • TLC

      The most perceptive comment on this thread.

  • Fraga123

    Can’t you morons just keep yelling at the gays and keep your particular brand of stupid away from everyone else?

  • ray

    It is YOU, young man, who needs to be culturally de-programmed. Instead, you’re strutting around, setting yourself up as a ‘minister’ and lecturing Those Evil Men (not YOU, of course, because YOU are the Good Guy, eh Morgan? No, instead, the problem is Those Other Men (the Bad Ones!) who need to be brought further under the control of a nation that is ALREADY totalitarian and feminist. So here is “God’s Servant” Morgan to pile-on to the intentional destruction of fatherhood and masculinity the past four decades in America, in the hope of scoring points with Mommy and the Girls.
    Worse, the American pulpits are full of “pastors” and “ministers” just like you, who have no anointing from the LORD, but instead elevate themselves (and one another) to positions of religious influence. Your fake chivalry is NOT Scriptural and it is NOT the will of the deity you imagine that you serve. Instead, you are serving your feminist society and the assumptions and values that, clearly, have been conditioned into you.

    • Kelly Moore

      I imagine you don’t want to hear the opinion of a woman regarding what you posted.

    • You should try saying what you think without ad hominem arguments.

    • All hail our woman overlords!

      Wait, something is just coming in… give me a moment… what’s that? Men still run pretty much every institution, period? Oh, well never mind.

      • John Suni

        By that reasoning since we have a black male president all black males should be doing fine right?

        Oh, wait! Black males trail GREATLY in every metric that shows quality of life? Hmphh, I guess sharing birth characteristics with those in power is meaningless to show how the COMMON person is doing!

        Who knew?

        • By “run” I mean that men are given preferential treatment in general. Now I will grant that there are a lot of other unjust things in the world right now currently screwing over the common man, but feminism isn’t one of them.

          • John Suni

            “By “run” I mean that men are given preferential treatment in general”

            Citations please. Men are 90% of the chronically destitute homeless (while women are 75% of homeless adults in transitional housing setup by charities), 95% of on-the-job deaths, 35% of college grads, 90% of the incarcerated, 80% of completed suicides. There is a white house office on women and girls (none for men), an office on the status of women in nearly every state (none for men except for 1 in Massachusetts and it is unfunded).

            The Affordable Care Act mentions women 126 times (mostly instructions for insurance providers to grant *only* women healthcare free of copays), men are mentioned twice.

            ACA provides no copay cancer screenings, DV victim services, and free reproductive options to women but NOT to men.

            Please instruct me all about how privileged men are.

          • TLC

            I’ve been trying to understand how men are privileged since women started making this claim in the Viet Nam war era. Men were drafted and sent to fight or die in Viet Nam, while women’s big issue was being “forced” to wear bras.

            Somehow, being “forced” to wear bras was a sign of women’s oppression while being forced to fight or die was a sign of men’s privilege.

            It’s an argument that made no sense then and makes no sense now.

          • I’m a month late in responding to this, but I see no reason we have to pick and choose between which things we think are unjust. Can we not both fight against unjust war AND the subjugation of women? Both are problems. Both need addressing.

          • Daniel

            I, too, would like to know the privileges I have that women lack.

  • Factsseeker

    There is a simple truth in journalism. If you want to win readers, say something blatantly divisive. The world is full of bigots. It is absolute rubbish to divide people up by gender and then label one as evil and violent and the other as victims and intrinsically good. Many men and women are sex-obsessed. These sex-obsessed people use and manipulate others for their own pleasure. They don’t really care about people. They see others purely as sex objects. It is also true that there are many violent and cruel women and men. These people either have anger problems or they are sadistic beings. Currently in the US today, it is politically expedient to stereotype genders. The White House is the biggest culprit. But articles like this one are also guilty of using stereotype to get attention. There are millions of decent men and women in the US who respect other people, whether they are male or female. These people need to collectively take action to confront those who promote division and hatred for political reasons.

    • Kelly Moore

      These good people also need to learn how to intervene to prevent sexual assault and sexual violence from happening, because way too many young women, men and children are having their lives ruined by sexual predators and violent offenders. Can’t we all agree on that?

    • I’m confused about which part of “don’t let people rape other people” is divisive. Hookup culture is rife with opportunities for rape. As far as I can tell, Morgan is suggesting that people be aware of others who are trying to take advantage of others.

      • Factsseeker

        Largely agree with you Chris. My point however, is that the real abuse is emotional and not so much physical. Once we accept that it is the humiliation and the emotional abuse that is the real pain in sexually abusive relationships, then the blame can be directed at both men and women. As Matthew Crockett points out, both men and women are sexual predators. that is where the dysfunction starts.

        • Sure, both men and women rape. The problem is that there is a distinct sense in which bro culture/rape culture — which is predominately male — engenders entitlement to or dependency on sex. This culture can push people past their normal limits into doing despicable things.

      • John Suni

        The part that’s divisive is the part about c0ck-blocking clearly insinuating the author is only talking about male on female rape.

        Male rape victims can take a hike apparently. This article is gynocentric and throws male victims of female sexual aggression under the bus.

        • This article does no such thing. It focuses on one particular problem concerning rape — sure. Nowhere, though, does the article suggest that it has the solution to all rape cases.

          Since everyone is so keen to see statistics, here is an article about fraternities supporting the claims made here.

          http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/24/rape-sexual-assault-ban-frats

          • Daniel

            Did you not read “Men have been socialized to view sex as entitled consumers.” and “Men need to be deprogrammed in a very fundamental way.”?

            I didn’t see “don’t let people rape other people” anywhere. He was clearly accusing men as being the problem.

          • John Suni

            An article from the radfem pundit who says she bathes in male tears?

            No thanks. Show me a study from the CDC or other reputable source and I’ll listen.

  • Bram

    Christianity and fascism were in a marriage before. That didn’t end well, some 70 years ago. This time the target demographic singled out for a final solution is somewhat larger. But it’s very clear where this renewed odious coupling will end. Where it belongs: on history’s scrapheap.

    • I could be mistaken, but did you just compare feminism to Nazism? Per the rules of the Internet, you lose this argument.

      Source: Godwin’s Law/it is known.

    • Joe

      Today I learned: being against rape means being for killing all men, everywhere.

  • Matthew Crockett

    I’m a member of that HeForShe campaign but my view of your post is that it is profoundly wrong. I have the ideas (if not the eloquence) to write my own essay on the subject but a brief list of my objections is this:

    Rape has as much to do with regular sex as pedophilia. Casting it as a loss of self-control is insulting to those who would never under any possible circumstances rape someone.

    Our society needs to do more to stifle wrong behavior and provide support to rape victims but it’s a matter involving the attitudes of both genders as far as bystanders to such events are concerned.

    I’m personally a more monogamous, dating-oriented single person and I profoundly disagree with hook-up mindset but it’s not a problem of men’s attitude toward women but a combined attitude of society. Every voluntary sexual encounter involves Two consenting adults. Barring deception, both approaches (dating and hook-up) entail one person with an idea finding a like-minded individual.

    The “predatory mindset” exists on both sides of the line. Erroneously drawing a link between hookups and rape dis-empowers women by denying women the right and ability to make their own decisions about sexual mores. Fixing the “hook-up” mindset (a separate topic than rape) requires an effort to change the minds of both men and women to emphasize the value of relationships over selfish thrill-seeking.

    • Daniel

      Thank you. For some reason, the author of this blog thinks all men are rapacious predators. Perhaps he is projecting.

      • WilmRoget

        Since nothing in the article makes that point, perhaps the projection in on your side of the internet connection.

        • Matthew Crockett

          Actually, it’s part of my personal philosophy that it is never helpful or productive to cast a problem as Us vs. Them. My comment was intended to make a point about swerving away from Men vs. Women towards Men + Women vs. Rapists

          • WilmRoget

            While that personal philosophy is no doubt quite good for ego-aggrandizement, it is extremely unproductive and even more extremely unrealistic.

            The really interesting thing though is that your personal philosophy, because of the intrinsic judgement in it (“it is never helpful or productive”) creates an inherent Us vs. Them.

          • Matthew Crockett

            What exactly is so “ego-aggrandizement” about suggesting that it’s unproductive to assign collective guilt to entire demographics? I don’t limit my views about stereotypes to just the demographics I’m a member of.

            As for your second paragraph, all over the internet you can find posts about the inherent evils of [insert name] demographic. I don’t feel it’s wrong or unfair to oppose prejudice.

          • WilmRoget

            “about suggesting that it’s unproductive to assign”

            That wasn’t the issue. Why are you unable to address what was actually discussed?

            And as for your second paragraphs, you appear to be blaming others for the fact that you didn’t live up to your own standard.

          • Matthew Crockett

            You’re the one who keeps responding to points you wish I said and ignoring anything I actually say. I clearly mistook faux-reason for the real thing. I’ll leave you to continue your imaginary debate with its only actual participant: Yourself.

          • WilmRoget

            “You’re the one who keeps responding to points you wish I said and ignoring anything I actually say.”

            Nope. Your insults only reflect your character.

  • John Suni

    Christian bible-thumpers and feminists make good bedfellows.

    They both revel in demonizing male sexuality.

    Rape is not a woman’s issue. It’s a human issue.

    If you look to the 2010 CDC study on interpersonal violence there is some revealing data on rape.

    http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf

    On table 2.1 on page 18 (of the report, not the pdf page counter) it shows female respondents reported being the victims of rape or attempted rape 1.1% in the last 12 months.

    If you look to table 2.2 on page 19 it shows male respondents reported being “made to penetrate” someone against his will at the SAME RATE 1.1% in the last 12 months. If we define rape as somebody forcing a man to penetrate them, men suffer just as much rape as women.

    Additionally, 80% of respondents who were “made to penetrate” another person report their assailant as female 80% of the time. In other words 40% of all rapes occurring to anybody are women raping men.

    In addition this study:

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1024648106477

    Shows 10% of women admit using aggressive or coercive actions to obtain sex from men. Another 6% of women admit ATTEMPTING to do the same.

    That means 16% (1 in 6) women are rapists.

    It’s time to treat rape as a human problem whether you’re secular or religious.

  • Melissa Kennedy

    While I agree that our current “rape culture” is a huge problem and many upstanding men aren’t able to see how they contribute to it. It’s such an ingrained part of our society, it takes a great deal of true enlightenment to see the forest for the trees. I know men who strive to be men of honor who can’t wrap their minds around the idea that supporting feminism doesn’t take anything away from them. They can still be sexual and strong. Equality won’t cause them to lose anything, aside from the right to treat women as lesser. But this is a huge issue that will require lots of work to solve.

    In the meantime, I have suggested to my male friends and young males I’ve spoken with that if they don’t want to be someone who rapes, the simple way to do this is to require “enthusiastic consent” from their partners. This means that even when you are in bed with someone and clothes are coming off, take a moment to ask them if they really want to do this. Their consent must be enthusiastic or else you should stop. The lack of saying no isn’t consent. Sometimes a woman is too drunk to stop a man, feels pressured or coerced or has been badgered enough to just quit objecting. If you insist on enthusiastic consent every time, you can be sure that you haven’t crossed a line. Not all rape is done by knife-wielding strangers and not all coerced sex is technically rape, but still it isn’t being good and loving to yourself or your partner.

    On the plus side, enthusiastic consent is sexy. Hearing someone say clearly how much they want you is a turn on and it doesn’t hinder a man’s sexuality. Sure, one might miss out on the potential sex they could be having with the woman isn’t enthusiastic, but it’s a worthy sacrifice to know that you didn’t take advantage of someone or behave in a less than honorable way.

    For my part, as a woman, I have adopted this strategy into my own sex life. Surprisingly, there are times when a man doesn’t really want to have sex but feels that if he backs out or admits that he’d rather just cuddle for now, he’ll be viewed as less than a man. Asking for enthusiastic consent has made me a more connected and compassionate partner.

    Both people benefit from a change to rape culture.

  • Daniel

    So, as I understand your blog, women have no sex drive. A woman cannot go out, enjoy a couple of drinks and find a man to have a tryst with. Holding a woman responsible for her decisions is rape culture.

    I have to wonder, are you just resentful at the fun you missed out on when you were young?

    • WilmRoget

      Yet nothing in the article suggests “women have no sex drive”.

      • Joe

        The only way for Daniel’s post to make sense is if we assume that raping a drunk woman isn’t actually rape, because clearly the fact that she was drinking meant that she was looking for a tryst (and also because a woman looking for a tryst isn’t allowed to reject any man who might want her).

  • TLC

    It’s my observation that feminism has been the regnant ideology on the American campus for most of four decades. It has defined the social and sexual mores of both college men and women. Feminists now tell us that 1 in 5 female students is raped. The conclusion is obvious: feminism is an abject failure. This conclusion is bolstered by data showing 80% of men in prison for rape were raised by single mothers–and yet feminists have been telling women for years that kids don’t need fathers. Getting rid of dad is the best way to create a “rape culture”–and yet feminists tell us to do exactly that.

    Unfortunately, feminism thrives on its failures because it can always blame the “patriarchy,” even when it is the break down of the patriarchy that leads to the biggest problems for women. We have a name for places where the patriarchy has been destroyed: “ghettos.” And feminists tell us that college campuses now resemble ghettos. Perhaps there’s a connection, perhaps ghettos are the natural result of destroying patriarchy.

    My conclusion is we need less feminism and more patriarchy. To solve the rape problem, we bring in the dads with daughters on campus and let the dads decide if and when a young man can date his daughter. Let the dads define the social mores and interactions between men and women. Things would change dramatically for the better. But we’re not going to do that: we’re going to do more of what we’ve been doing and hope for different results. We will continue to subsidize the sexual freedom of women and demonize men and boys. We will, in effect, keep doing exactly what has created the problems we have now. Because too many people think like this befuddled pastor thinks.

  • Nancy R Smith

    Thank you, Morgan. I’m appalled as the misrepresentation of feminism in many of your responses, but I suppose they need someone to blame. Just thought you should hear from someone who appreciated (and learned from) what you had to say.