Y'all, this is a post about sexual violence, so if that's a trigger for you, best not to read any further.
I caught up with a guy I know over lunch the other day, and the conversation turned to a mutual friend of ours, a woman he used to date.
She'd recently been sexually assaulted in her workplace, and she'd been pretty public not only about the trauma she'd endured, but about her struggle trying to go back to work in this environment.
"She's doing okay," my friend said. "I think she recognizes that this is something that's going to stay with her for the rest of her life, but she's doing okay."
"I'm glad she's doing okay," I replied, and then we both just kind of sat there and stared at each other, because there wasn't much more to say.
Impotent, is how I felt. Impotent, and pretty fucking sick.
From what I can tell, the threat of sexual assault is just something that many women have to take for granted. I've lost track of the number of conversations I've had with female friends that have turned to the subject of the assaults they've had to endure.
It's a large number, anyway. A significant proportion of my friends have been assaulted, I've learned.
And the heartbreaking and absolutely infuriating thing about these conversations is how resigned these women are to the fact that there's no fucking point in trying to bring charges against their attackers, because we've all seen how well that turns out.
We've all seen how a woman who brings forward a rape accusation is often tried more harshly in the forum of public opinion than the man she's accusing.
We've all seen how an allegation of rape can be seen as just an unfortunate speed bump in the way of a young man's potential, and how society will bend over backwards to pave that bump flat so as not to jeopardize his career.
And even if a woman who brings forward allegations is treated fairly, we've all seen these cases degenerate into her word against his, seen her case thrown to the mercy of some moralizing old judge who's more concerned with what she wore and how many drinks she had than whether he stopped when she said no.
It just makes me sick.
It makes me sick that my friends and the people I love have to deal with this shit. It makes me sick that people I don't know have to deal with this shit.
It makes me sick that there's no recourse but a court system that clearly doesn't have the answers.
It makes me sick that we lionize and elect into power men who brag about groping women, that we cheer for rapists on NFL Sundays. It makes me sick that we teach young men that sex is an entitlement, and breed into their minds that if they can't convince a woman to consent to sleep with them, then it's okay to use force.
It makes me sick that when I'm walking on a street at night and a woman is coming in the other direction, I *know* she's wondering if the big, burly guy coming at her is the guy who's going to fuck up her life.
It makes me sick that there are dudes who'll see that woman cross the street to get away from them and feel butthurt because they're not rapists, and say *not all men* and feel indignant instead of trying to get to the fucking root of the problem.
It makes me sick that there are dudes who'll hear talk about male privilege and toxic masculinity and close their ears to it because they can't accept that being male has given them a leg up in the world, even if it doesn't mean their lives don't have their own challenges.
It makes me sick that there are dudes who'll prioritize their own comfortable status quo over others' desire for safety and security, who'll use any excuse to blind themselves to the problems and not lend a helping hand.
It makes me sick that not enough of us guys call out sexism and toxic masculinity when we see it.
It makes me sick that I haven't called guys out for making sexist jokes and comments. That I've prioritized *not* making things awkward instead of trying to make a difference.
Hell, it makes me sick that we spend so much time telling young women what to do to avoid getting raped, and next to no time telling young men not to rape.
We as men are failing.
Our brothers are straight-up murdering women. Explicitly because we're not getting the sexual attention we feel we deserve.
We need to shut up for a change. We need to spend less time telling women what they did wrong, and more time listening to what we can do better.
We need to believe women.
Hell, we need to believe survivors, period.
We need to call out our brothers for making inappropriate jokes. We need to look at our own jokes and comments and recognize when they've crossed the line.
We need to do the hard work of looking at ourselves, as individuals and as groups, and acknowledging what we've done wrong and what we can do better.
We cannot accept a world in which men feel entitled and women feel threatened, by default.