Building And Sustaining A Healthy Men's Anti-Rape Group
By George Marx, 1987.
This paper focuses on men's anti-rape organizing from the perspective of one member of a men's pro-feminist anti-rape group. We work at educating ourselves and other "normal" men. I hope that a lot of my ideas will be adaptable to others' situations. I will try to separate issues into fairly distinct sections, although they will inevitably overlap.
My ideas have been strongly influenced by many people. I wish to particularly recognize the influences of Chuck Schobert and other members of Men Stopping Rape Inc. (MSR), with whom I have grown. Fellow anti-rape activists Tim Beneke, Mark Stevens, Kenn Arning, John Stoltenberg and Jack Straton have helped me greatly. I wish to particularly thank Jack Straton for his editting and proofreading help! My consciousness has been greatly raised by numerous other helpful men from the Pro-Feminist Men's Movement of which we are a part.
I wish to also strongly acknowledge the ideas of numerous activists in the Feminist Women's Movement. Of particular note I would like to thank Andrea Dworkin, Susan Brownmiller and Diana Russell. Without many of these women's important work there would not be a Men's Movement. Our debts to the Women's Movement can not be overemphasized.
The Pro-Feminist Men's Movement evolved out of the modern Women's Movement largely in the 1970's and 1980's. It seeks to expand our visions of what being a man can be within our society. We work to help bring about a world where sexism (including heterosexism), racism, violence and in my view classism) are not predominant. Many men in the Men's Movement support the struggles of other progressive movements such as the Women's Movement, the Gay/Lesbian Liberation Movements, various liberation struggles in other countries, various anti-militarism movements, the efforts of differently abled people to be accepted as valued whole people and various struggles to end racism within our country, etc.
The writings that follow switch from first to second to third person singular and plural to reflect what I feel are the most effective ways of saying different things. I have tried to use "s/he" and similar pronouns when I feel the situation is likely to refer to both women and men and words like "he" when in most situations what I am referring to would refer to a man. This is meant to be a readable work, and not a professional paper.
Readers of this material are encouraged to duplicate part or all of the writing to allow others to read it. It is deliberately not protected by a copyright. I wish to receive constructive feedback including suggestions for expansion and/or clarification of my ideas. I want my name and address spread with the excerpting of parts of this writing to encourage further communication. Please try to respect my ideas, by crediting them when used in other writing, and sending me a copy of it for my records. Hopefully this paper will expand and be re-written over time.
This paper is part of the the Men's Anti-Rape Resource Center's collection of materials. M.A.R.C. [P.O. Box 497, Madison WI 53701-0497] is a joint project of Men Stopping Rape, Inc of Madison, WI and The Ending Men's Violence Task Group of The National Organization for Changing Men. Both groups are not-for-profit. Inquiries to M.A.R.C. are most welcome! (NOTE: 1996 - M.A.R.C. CEASED SOME YEARS AGO)
TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
II. WHERE DOES ONE BEGIN?
Beginning in anti-rape work can be both very difficult and very easy. One clearly needs to focus on opening up one's horizons. At some point one must focus one's energy into relatively clear areas. Unlike the area of domestic violence, it is not immediately clear what one's focus is to be. The question of focus alone has multiple dimensions.
One can focus on:
One can try to focus on rape alone. One can also see rape in relation to domestic violence, incest,
Anti-rape work can focus on the general public, victims, perpetrators, the media, the police, the courts, legislative bodies etc. It can be focussed on a neighborhood, school, part of a city, a city, a state, a region or be a national effort. It can be done in groups that include men only, men and women, men only in cooperation with a women's only group etc.
It can be work with no funding whatsoever, limited monies, or rely on significant funding sources such as major grants. It can be a single, planned event. It can also focus on particular times of the year, or be ongoing over many years. Doing anti-rape work can involve one dedicated individual, a small group of friends or allies or a larger group. When a group is involved it can work alone or in cooperation with other groups such as women's groups, progressive political groups, college or other local authorities, etc.
While there can be traps and shortcomings in various approaches, nearly all of them have the potential for helping others and ourselves. Most "failures" in anti-rape work relate in large part to unrealistic expectations of caring people. Anti-rape work is difficult and the rewards of it are not always easily visible, particularly when one is working quite hard. It can be very difficult to avoid demoralization or burnout trying to "save the world", while hurting oneself in various ways.
III. CLARIFYING WHERE ONE IS AT
The first step in doing anti-rape work involves evaluating where one is at. If one has a group of people, this involves a lot of discussion, with Active listening being very important. Serious individual thought is always important. If one is alone, one must think of what support one may need in such work. It is very easy to get well ahead of one's current realities. One may have a lot of energy and want to "do things" immediately.
Goals clarification is generally necessary. If one's focus is limited to one rally, march or workshop, one must focus on doing this action effectively and efficiently. As one's goals become larger and longer term, it becomes more and more important to take the time to clarify feelings, possibly at the expense of focussing the group outward for some time. The personal and group clarity and unity can be very useful later on, when one faces difficult times. Accepting and understanding the feelings of one's peers can be critical in doing any future actions.
When we formed Men Stopping Rape (MSR), we had a lot of fears of each other and of other men. We feared facing violence from men when we might picket a pornographic bookstore. We weren't comfortable with how the rest of our group might react to violence or our fears of violence. We had concerns about each other that in retrospect seem at times petty, but they weren't petty then. Those of us who were relatively new to the Men's Movement feared our own ineptness. We were also scared of the more experienced men. Some of the more experienced men were afraid that their issues would be watered down. They feared a loss of focus because of the inexperienced men. The straight men feared the gay men and vice versa. We had a lot of
Issues that may come up at this time include:
Initially there may be a question as to whether the group wants to
There are no pat answers for what decisions should be made at this time. It is important to gradually build doable short-range goals and to have longer range visions that feel good to most of the group's members. It is very easy at this stage to assume that others will be swept up with the energy of the group or to feel that other men are unreachable. One can be easily dismayed when other men do not readily join the new group.
If you are sincerely committed, in touch with your needs and how other men react to you, you are likely to see at least tentative interest in some men. Don't expect too much!
In MSR we have found that our energy and interest levels are very different. It is easy for some of the more active members to needlessly guilt trip other group members. This can often lower, rather than increase group energy. Unless one wants to have a group of three or four members one must learn to accept different levels of commitment and different visions within one's group. There can be a fine line between commitment to the cause and watering things down to the point that active members will lose interest in the group.
It is also important at this stage to make sure that there is some type of effective ending of meetings. Restating decisions that were made, individual responsibilities before the next meeting and similar things can avoid confusion and resentment later on.
It is good to share both positive and negative feelings near the end of meetings. It is important to learn to accept constructive criticisms as well as to give positive strokes to others. The importance of the latter can largely be seen when the group faces some major turmoil in the future. Without the internal cohesion and trust, it will be likely to splinter or fold. Finally, it is most important to acknowledge personal and group successes. Part of this process involves looking in new ways at what you are accomplishing. In MSR in our early days we celebrated how many men we had reached with our new brochures. If we had instead asked how many rapes we had concretely, for sure, prevented, we would have never seen the influence that we have had.
IV. DOING SOMETHING AS A GROUP - THE EARLY STAGES
What is done in the early stages of a group can have a lot to do with how long the group lasts and how effective it is. If the group is formed out of some type of local crisis such a well-publicized local rape, there will be strong pressures to do something quickly. Similarly there may be a strong motivation to do something as soon as possible because rape is such an important immediate issue.
In deciding what should be done one must listen to one's heart and the needs of those in the group. If immediate action is necessary, one should generally do something expeditiously. I urge caution in choosing what is done. When one is emotionally charged, one can do incredibly powerful, important things. One also can easily lose perspective and misjudge the reactions of others. One can see community concern and assume that large numbers of people will show up for something and then feel incredibly letdown when few show up. When large numbers of people appear interested, one can easily overestimate their level of commitment to the
Do not minimize the importance of actions one may take at this stage of one's work. A demonstration with 10 men present can be an important success of the group, particularly if one expects 3-8 men. It can be a major disappointment if one expects 100 men to be there. Letters to the editor, articles for local media etc. are all "actions". If one naively assumes that that rape will be stopped in a matter of days or months, one is either working in the wrong area or will need to reevaluate one's visions. If one's views change at this point one may be beginning to learn what rape is all about. This can be scary, but important. Patience and group cohesiveness may strongly correlate with the potential for a group's survival in the long-run. If one's goal is to do things for only a brief period of time, this can be much less important. Anti-rape work can be stressful and it
Being honest and straightforward with each other is very important. It is easy to presume that our allies share our feelings, without talking things out. Particularly when individually or as a group we feel ourselves under pressure, it is important to take the time to listen to others' feelings. In this process we must struggle with our own feelings and a lot of our basic selves as men. Weekend retreats where we evaluate our recent history and look at the future can help, particularly if we celebrate and play together. Seeing our commonalities with other
Building friendships with the men we work with is very important from the beginning. At first it is understandable that we are cautious. Having male friends who spend time not talking about sports and women in distant ways is often a new experience for many of us.
V. GROUP LEADERSHIP
Men's anti-rape work can be lead in a variety of ways. These can range from being dominated by one individual either within or outside of the actual work group to a totally decentralized, anarchistic group. I would like to discuss some of the pro's and con's of a variety of these structures.
a) Individual leadership from outside the group brings potentially the most fragile of groups. Examples of this situation could be someone like the Dean of Students of a college deciding that there should be a men's anti-rape group among the male students of the college. This could also be a member of the counseling staff of a university deciding that there should be some student lead workshops to reach the men on campus.
For such a group to succeed it is important that it be very focussed, minimize potential conflicts within the group, and have adequate resources to strengthen it. An example of how this might be possible would be for a college leader to find at least one male ally who could work within the group and perhaps plan a rape awareness week in cooperation with existing women's groups. If school resources could help pay for publicity and the goals are not too ambitious, a few people could develop an effective program that could be expanded upon, if it was successful. Potential problems with this approach are that an external person needs the support of others, who may have conflicting goals. An undergraduate student may not see things the same way as the Dean of Students. There can be an imbalance of power which can be disruptive, as the person in control may be accountable for expenses and have monetary control. At the same time there is a need
b) Internal leadership from a non-peer can be very similar to external leadership. In such a scenario an assistant dean of students might plan for example to lecture new students at an orientation session on acquaintance assault issues. Such a setting may require minimal work of volunteers, or it may rely solely on the energy of the leadership.
The advantages and disadvantages of such an approach are interrelated. A dean of students may be able to exert power, which requires students to at least feign listening. Having such a captive audience can be very useful. At the same time there can be a gulf between the leadership and the audience which can be difficult to bridge. Rebelling against authority can easily be a common reaction, if such an approach is not well done.
Another disadvantage of such an approach can be that the resources of the leadership can easily be strained. If a staff person in a Dean of Students Office is in charge s/he may have numerous other responsibilities, and not be able to focus significant effort into such a project. Particularly when such a program has evolved out of some type of local crisis situation, adequate resources can be available. This can be a very big advantage, particularly if the funding is not only short-term.
c) Dominant individual peer leadership (frequently by a charismatic man) is common in men's anti-rape work. This can be very effective particularly if the leader is very good. It can also lead to burnout, resentment and the disintegration of the group if either the leader leaves or alienates others in the group.
It is difficult to maintain an effective group without a focal point for leadership. An effective leader can listen to others easily, take initiative for both internal meetings of the group and for external outreach activities. He can be a point of contact for potential new members, the media and others. When the chips are down, he can make sure that things get done by the group.
The success or failure of such an approach largely rests on how the leader either limits activities to suit his needs, or interacts with others in the group. Some individual men may be able to do their own thing, with the minimal support of others. In a sense there is no group. More commonly the success or failure of the group relates to the quality of cooperation between the leader and others.
This type of group structure is based upon a common reality that one man may have either a lot more time and energy or greater skills at facilitating a group. The problems with this approach can develop when the leader seeks the support of others, and feels that he is getting less support than he needs. At this point he can either restate his needs to other group members and help revise expectations if they appear unrealistic or go into "rescue mode".
It is very healthy to try to talk out one's expectations and needs and be flexible about what one can do as a group. This is quite possible when one is able to revise plans when necessary. Sometimes others can't commit themselves to doing the necessary work. An example of this might be a group deciding to do a series of bi-weekly workshops beginning three months later. Men will commit themselves to no more than one co-facilitation every four weeks. If one month later there are only three volunteers and publicity is not out yet, a more realistic plan may be desirable.
It is much more difficult when the leader commits the group to leading a workshop three days later, when he is already doing several other workshops that week, and then can't find others to do the workshop. It may be difficult to cancel out. Besides the practical implications of the leader making commitments, there is also the problems of one's ego and identity getting in the way. For the leader the success of the group can reflect his identity and success as a person.
To avoid burnout it is important for leaders to minimize their rescue attempts, and accept failures as group, rather than personal failures. Starting to rescue the group is a vicious circle. Initially one is helping out others, but gradually they come to rely on the rescues, and one's resentment of them grows. Sooner or later explosions are likely. The leader wants help. The other group members want him to understand and accept their levels of commitment to the group.
d) Leadership by a few men is a common way to do anti-rape work. Such leaders can rely on each other for feedback on their feelings and activities. Group responsibilities can be divided in a variety of ways. Responsibilities can be divided by area, such as one man working on media contacts, another on seeking new members etc. Alternatively the work areas can be handled by all the men. In such a setting there may or may not be specific leaders in a particular area.
Such leadership can have from two to about ten active leaders. As the group gets larger, it can often get confusing defining who a leader is beyond a smaller number of people. There are advantages of a small number of men leading. They can get together more easily. Oftentimes decision making can be easy. Dividing tasks can be quite simple. Having a common focus on the issues that are involved is easier with a smaller number of men. It is easier to build trust the smaller the group is.
A larger core group can do more work than a smaller group. Similarly a larger group of leaders can potentially involve new people in the group more easily than a group which seems like a small clique. While the decision making and logistics can be more complex, it is easier to avoid "blind spots", when one has more points of view to listen to. With this approach it is important to avoid over-dependency on one or a few of the members. Conflicting commitments or lack of interest in the group by one or two can threaten the survival of the group as a whole. I think that this type of a group is most likely to survive in the long run, as it can be most easily focussed and the most steady of all the leadership situations.
e) An egalitarian and/or anarchistic group leadership can be effective in limited situations. It may work well when the group's activities are either very simple, or things are really not done as a group, but as a series of autonomous individual projects. Such a group can be ineffective because deciding what to do can overshadow doing anything. It is also common for the energy levels of members to vary widely. This can result in the group only doing the work at the lowest level of individual commitment.
VI. DECISION MAKING WITHIN ONE'S GROUP
Majority rules and consensus models are the two main ways of making decisions in a group. In some situations a group can also have a more anarchistic model. This says basically that things will get done if people commit themselves to doing them and come through with them.
Majority rule models are common within the society as a whole in areas such as elections. They are often more difficult to use with a relatively small group. A majority of members of a group may favor a particular approach, but the majority may not have the commitment to do the action. Majority rule can also lead to the splintering of the group over issues that need not be threatening. It is important to recognize that the majority of members are not always right on an issue. The primary advantage of majority rule models is that they can take a lot less time to make decisions than with other approaches.
Consensus decision making is more common within men's anti-rape groups. It is important within such a model to try to work out significant decisions that reflect the concerns of all or nearly all of the active, members present. Some consensus models require that no one block consensus, while some allow for the dissension of one or a small percentage of the membership. It is often most effective for such a system to allow for members to strongly approve, mildly approve, feel neutral, abstain, disapprove but not block consensus and (potentially) block consensus with disapproval. This variety of options helps avoid either/or dichotomies
Consensus decisions are developed, reflecting the concerns and issues of most, if not all of those present. This can help members feel that they are being heard. It also requires that people involved develop their listening skills and avoid speaking over minutia. As a group gets larger and busier it becomes more and more important both that alternate views are listened to, and that not everyone necessarily speak about every issue. It also can become important to delegate responsibilities and not require large group decisions on all issues. One can then assume that smaller groups and individuals can be entrusted with some decision making. This can help avoid
In the anarchistic form of decision making everything is much simpler. If people say they will do things and then do them, they happen. If there is a street fair and one person is interested in having a table at it, s/he may be able to do it if one or two others will help. There may not need to be a group decision at all. This type of approach can avoid meaningless discussions which determine something, only to find that no one will do the work.
When this form is used extensively, there can be a feeling that there is no real group. Potential new members may be turned off by the lack of clear structure and not see comfortable ways to integrate themselves into the group. Similarly, "either or" situations may come up, where group money is either committed or not committed to a project. This model can't deal with such situations effectively.
VII. HOMOPHOBIA AND INTERNAL COMPETITION
Homophobia is "the fear of the gay/lesbian in others and ourselves". Whether we are straight, bi-sexual or gay, we have nearly all learned to fear other men. We have learned that if we expose any of our inner selves, other man will take advantage of our weaknesses to trounce on us. We have learned to talk with other men about sports and women in a non-feeling way. We confide in, seek support from and are otherwise emotionally dependent on women for much in our lives, regardless of our sexual orientation. Talking with men about rape and related issues can be very threatening, when one has rarely confided in another man.
Homophobia can be very important also because it strongly fuels male violence. We must be competitive with other men and never let them get too close to our real selves, for fear that they will gain an advantage over us. From an early age we learn to fight with other boys and as we grow older the levels of violence often escalate. Men kill and maim other men in frightening numbers. We learn to control "our" women through domestic violence, rape and in other ways.
Our fears of the feminine sides of ourselves have a lot to do with perpetuating our violence. As upper-middle class men we can often feel that we are immune from the problems of those "macho blue collar men". We fail to recognize how we listen to each other speak, looking for an opening to get our two cents in, putting down the other man. We each have our own barriers, where we dare not venture beyond. We may think that a "fem" earring is okay, but that pink draw-string pants are too feminine for us. Questioning simple things like hand lotion to make our hands softer can lead us to basic questioning of what our male identity is.
It is seemingly so simple to see how we have grown up as men understanding our maleness as being NOT feminine. If women are nurturers, being male means to not be nurturant. Being male connotes less of being "strong" than being "not weak like a woman". We each have different parts of ourselves that need reevaluating and increased sensitivity. We also face the fears of being too close to other men (as well as women) and “losing".
In Men Stopping Rape we often encounter men new to our group wanting "to focus on the issue". Frequently what this means is that they want to get away from the affection we show for each other. They want concrete actions that stop rape. They respect us, but fear us also. In some cases they presume that we are gay, because in their experience straight men don't touch other men in non-violent ways. In other cases our changes in our own lives are threatening to them.
It is important that we listen to men who are uncomfortable with us and accept them, without bending to their fears and being what we are not. We have to continue our struggles to build a new positive image of masculinity as we do our work. Learning that it will be an often unclear struggle for many years is difficult for us to accept, because as men we expect concise, clear answers quickly.
We are struggling to be supportive of each other as men in ways that are both satisfying and difficult for most of us. Unlearning that touch must be either violent or sexual is difficult when we have spent 20-80 years learning that. Feeling safe enough to talk of about lot of personal issues is scary. We don't have a lot of good role models. Most of our fathers weren't sensitive, caring, feeling men, although many of them did done the best they could. We may not always agree on what is "good" or constructive as we struggle to develop a new sense of what masculinity is. We need to learn to listen, feel and accept our differences.
Our homophobia fuels male violence in a variety of ways. Not being able to express our feelings gets in the way. We seek ways we can understand of dealing with the emotions that are raised within us. We fear that we aren't good enough to be a "real" man. We have to show other men that we are "tougher" than we know we are. We seek scapegoats such as other men, women or children. We defend "our honor" through fighting other men either literally or figuratively. I can remember ridiculing boys that were in my view potentially worse off than I was, to make myself appear better than they were. When I was harassed as a 15 year old by a classmate, I saw only one way of responding to him. I offered to fight him. Fortunately he backed off, apparently fearing I would hurt him. We can't separate necessary competition (if there is such a thing) from an unhealthy view of ourselves and others. We can never be good, because being good means being on top, and we are never on top.
We poo poo the "silly" gabbiness of women with other women. We resent their intimacy with each other, even though we realize that this intimacy is generally not sexual. We may explode when women will not take our anger although we do not feel safe exploding at our boss or another (frequently) man in our life. We do not have others to talk things out with. We have very limited skills at talking out many of our feelings. We may not physically attack a woman in such a situation, but we may verbally abuse her. We are reasonably close to being physically violent. We wouldn't say that any man, except perhaps a father or brother, had a definite responsibility to listen to us with no if's, and's or but's, but a woman is expected to be available for us now!
In a world where we fear other men, women are often our saviors. Our mothers accepted us, with all our weaknesses as boys. Our lovers, sisters, mothers and other significant women in our lives are expected to cater to our needs. Most of us have not learned how to deal with the intensity of our feelings effectively. Talking things out, when we can do it at all, frequently means spilling our guts to a woman. She is expected to be receptive to our needs, and not to expect reciprocity, unless it is in a materialistic manner ("I bought you this ____ because you helped me so much with ____"). Part of me expects my wife to deflect the anger I feel towards men I work with, who I don't feel I can talk safely with.
For many of us, when a woman doesn't respond as we want her to at any moment, some form of violence is "asked for". We don't identify this violence with football, where a defensive back must hurt the wide receiver to get some respect. We also don't identify it with our fears of losing "our women" to other men, who may be better competition.
As men we must bear our burdens inside, and women must help us cope with the difficulties in our world. We resent women who seem to be able to confide in each other so well. We also fear the intimacy with other men, because they can use whatever we tell them against us. There are no instant answers to our homophobia. We must explore it and seek to comes to grip with it in healthy, constructive ways. We must realize that it was not built within us in a day. It will take a lot of concentrated focus to deal with it effectively.
VIII. REACHING MEN
Getting some of our ideas across to other men is a difficult and very important part of our anti-rape work. It is important to realize what may draw men to a workshop or other gathering and what will often fail.
A significant number of men do not see rape as a men's issue. For them rape is something done by vicious, crazy men. Innocent women are grabbed on the street and dragged into the bushes, or something similar. From such a scenario, why would a man want to come to a discussion on men and rape? A logical reason would be because he is one of those weirdo male rapists. A less likely, but possible reason, would be because he is somehow a victim. Perhaps his sister was attacked on the street.
A far more common male reaction to rape is apathy. It isn't necessarily that men don't "care" about rape, but there are other issues that are more important to them. For some it may be one's job or studying. For some it may be doing "real" political work concerning "relevant" issues such as Central America. For some "rape" may be scary. It involves sex and/or violence as an issue. We aren't supposed to talk about "illicit" sex!
It is very important to find ways to bring the rape issue to men, rather than expecting men to come to you. Holding a forum in a public library might often draw few if any men. Men at a sporting event often will not listen to other issues such as rape. They want to focus on their socializing and the sport.
Men are interested in rape and related issues. Reaching them takes a lot of work. It is important to understand one's local community. In a fraternity house at a university the student fraternity leader can be a tremendous ally or no help whatsoever. If he asks his fellow students to come, one can often get 20 or more men together relatively easily. If he thinks you are accusing his fraternity of being rapists, you aren't likely to get anywhere.
Focussing on dating issues is often necessary on college campuses. Students are concerned about
In Madison we have a minimum of 5-10,000 people each Saturday morning in the warmer half of the year at a local farmer's market. This has proven to be an ideal place for us to meet a lot of men to talk about our issues and share our leaflets. Men stop to talk. Sometimes they talk about how our message didn't sink in at first, but now it makes a lot of sense. In such an environment people are not generally in a hurry. They may be open to talking as they go by a very visible booth walking around our square.
Other ways of reaching men can be in school settings within classes, where one can easily have a captive audience. Within a college community this can include a variety of disciplines such as sociology, various education areas, health areas etc. Within high schools and middle schools health classes, special forums and even subjects like English classes (there are fiction books for children discussing rape).
In some communities it may be useful to connect with men through existing organizations that focus on child abuse, domestic violence and other related issues. Supportive church members can get one invited into churches to lecture or lead discussions. It is also possible to do outreach with local law enforcement officials. Satirical street theater may be useful in some communities.
IX. MEN'S REACTIONS TO ANTI-RAPE WORK AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
Men commonly react to anti-rape work with either a "benevolent apathy" or varying levels of defensiveness. It is important to in part accept other men the way they are, while getting one's message across as best one can. It is necessary to often tell men that we are not accusing them of being rapists. We are trying to discuss issues that are important to us with them. We must relate our issues to their lives, or we will never get anywhere.
One way of doing this is focussing on dating situations that may be important to non-married, straight men. Communicating about dating and sex is often an important issue for men. Even when these issues aren't directly relevant (e.g. with men who have been married and monogamous for many years), one can relate rape to male/female and male/male friendships. One can discuss how as men we often depend upon women for all of our emotional support. Out of this men can help begin exploring how they expect women to do many things for them that they would never expect from a man. Anger towards women can be discussed out of this.
It can be good to discuss the fact that rape is an issue for both straight and gay men as potential perpetrators and victims. It is important that all men realize that they can be victims of rape. Discussing how many men have been sexually abused as children with figures like one in eight can shock some men, while making victims realize that they are not alone. It is likely that some men in a workshop setting may be able to relate directly to some of the discussion from their own personal experiences. It is essential to stress how difficult it is for male victims to seek help, due to their shame and fears.
In helping men see the relevance of rape to their lives it is important to get through the myths of the stranger coming out of the bushes to attack women. This does happen, but it is typical of perhaps 10-20% of all rapes. Men are shocked by the percentage of acquaintance assaults. Out of this one can discuss what rape is, and how men and women are socialized differently.
Many men get hung up on the idea that women are supposed to say no to sexual invitations of men and that men are always supposed to be the initiators of sexual activity. Focussing on "no" meaning no is important in this context. Getting men to see the need for checking out their feelings with potential sexual partners is a radical step in some ways.
For many men discussing options they (and their potential partners) may have, the feelings involved, etc. may be a welcome first discussion for them. Out of such a discussion men can begin to see how their uneasiness in dealing with women in a variety of social setting can relate directly to women's fears of sexual assault or harassment. When men can see this, it can bring up a lot of issues in their lives. Discussions can then productively go a long way.
Dealing with men's harassment can be harrowing at first in one's work. Hearing men say that they like to or want to rape women is not pleasant. It is important to keep one's cool, but to also not stifle one's feelings in such situations. Men may in some cases make more reasonable statements in such a situation if you handle it well, or they may just disappear.
It can be useful to reflect on these issues beforehand. One can examine where men may be coming from, when they make rape jokes or other crude putdowns. For some men working against rape threatens them. We might help stop some of their personal power, which they wield over women. Although they may either greatly over- or under-estimate our strength or influence, this can be useful both for these men and for us.
More commonly men make rape jokes out of a mild defensiveness, often to appear cool to their peers. Getting extremely irate and defensive in such a setting is counterproductive. It may confuse the man who has made what he thinks is a very mild, small statement, which he may soon forget.
Another common experience we have found in MSR is encountering various "kooks", for the lack of a better word. Commonly they will try to join our group with incredible enthusiasm. They often have all the answers and a lot of energy. It is easy to be bowled over by their enthusiasm, particularly if the group energy is not high at the time.
In MSR we have found that such men rarely will stay around more than one or two meetings. If there is good internal cohesion in the group, it is relatively easy to confront some of what they say, but largely to let them run their course and disappear. This will of course be harder with a new goup or a group that is struggling. It is important to be clear to such men that they have no right to speak for the group in public. They may well do so in the short-run no matter what you say to them.
It is important to clarify one's feelings and then share these feelings with other group members when such situations arise. Without such talk, other group members may each feel that they are the only one who is bothered by what a man is saying. Resentment towards others can easily build up with this silence.
Picking out "kooks" from potentially active members of one's group can be done with a combination of looking at their listening skills and their body language. New men may talk and not listen. This may mean that they need to be heard and that they need help of some kind. It is important to realize that they may be a rape/incest victim themselves. They may not say this for a long time. The group may need to decide to listen individually or collectively to men that want to talk a lot. Some of them may become useful members of the group or may simply be helped by having a man listen to their feelings. It is important to not let them disrupt the group.
Contrastingly, men who seem to listen well are generally potentially good members. If such men don't say much, it may be because they don't feel safe yet with what is for them a new group. In such a situation it is good to look for their body language. If they seem to be intently listening and responding non-verbally, that is a good sign. If they seem very defensive, it is good to give them space and not confront them in ways that may needlessly scare them off.
X. DEALING WITH MEN'S ANGER TOWARDS WOMEN
Men often have a lot of anger towards women. When this anger is very intense within men, they will often fail to see rape as a serious issue. They may support a lot of rape-affirming behaviors. In a short workshop session with others present it can be very difficult to deal with this anger. There are no magical solutions!
Men's anger towards women frequently relates to their past dating experiences. They often feel that they have been used by women. They may have spent significant money on presents for a woman, and then she initiated a breakup in their relationship. They may have anger at women who have rejected their requests for dates. The anger may be more generalized in feeling that women can attract men easily. Women seemingly give them mixed messages. Women have strong friendships with each other, while men do not.
The common part of much of men's anger towards women is that they generally have not talked through their feelings in more than a superficial way and they have not focussed on what their feelings are at all. "She ______ me over" or similar anger is often the depth of the feeling that the man has experienced.
It can be useful to let men vent some of their anger, while not allowing that to dominate a discussion. It is good to explore what the woman may have been feeling, particularly in a workshop where women are present. It is good to acknowledge that men's anger and feelings are real and valid.
At the same time it is important to not get into a tit-for-tat equation of women's bad deeds towards men being equal to rape. It is necessary to focus on the intensity of rape on a victim's life, whether the victim is female or male. A man who has been burned in a relationship, may have trouble getting involved in future relationships. This is different than a person who has been assaulted by an acquaintance. They may be scared to date at all or to be outside in the dark etc.
In focussing on these issues it is important to try to get men to focus on what it would be like to be raped. It is necessary to go beyond the physical pain of the experience. Talk about how this could affect one's life for months and years after the incident. It is most effective to get men to bring up the feelings, rather than lecturing the group about this.
In some cases the writings of victims may be effective. It may be useful to talk about the fact that no one deserves to be victimized. Perpetrators are responsible for what they do. Examples unrelated to rape may be useful. A simple example might be if one gets upset at one's boss and drives home recklessly in one's car and crashes into another car, the other driver doesn't deserve anything.
Another part to this is acknowledging that one's dates or former friends may also be unclear about similar issues. They may change their minds about things. We often presume in our relationships that the other person should be consistent and clear to us, when we are often not similarly consistent ourselves. It may be unfair that one's girlfriend wanted the relationship to grow and then changed her mind and backed away from the relationship. One can acknowledge one's anger towards her, one's sadness at the loss of the relationship etc. There is a difference between this and saying that the girlfriend deserves to be raped or otherwise attacked, or have a window broken in her apartment or on her car.
It can be particularly useful to focus on how we as men direct our anger. "She made me so mad I could kill her." "I should have slapped her face." Discussing how we casually talk of violence as being deserved can easily relate in discussions about our anger towards women and how it relates to rape. It can be particularly vivid to focus on similarly whether women are expected to be violent with men. We can all come up examples of the woman who shot the man to death who "did her wrong". It is much harder to come up with the abusive wife, who beats or rapes her husband or other men (although we should acknowledge that violence is wrong, whether the perpetrator is female or male).
Avoiding the "equal" trap ("men are also abused by women physically") is also important. We should acknowledge that it certainly happens the other way around. It can help to discuss the power imbalances that make it much more likely to happen with male perpetrators. It may also be necessary to point out in certain situations how participants keep trying to change the subject away from talking about us as men.
XI. WORKING WITH WOMEN
Working with women is very important in anti-rape work. Women appear to be a significant majority of the rape victims. Women have written most of the important writings on rape. They have formed most of the groups focussing on rape as an issue. Women have brought about most of the important new insights we have about rape. Most other feminist visions of our world have come from women. Women also can often have a lot of anger towards men and a lot of suspicions about men doing anti-rape work.
Men can very easily face significant mistrust from women when beginning anti-rape work. Women often want to believe that men are working supportively. Women often feel that rape is an important issue they face intensely every day. When they are committed to anti-rape work such as working in a rape crisis center they may see the issue even more intensely. They often fear that we "new feminist men" are talking a sweet line just to get in bed with them.
Men can easily view rape seriously in the short-run. A friend may have been raped. You may hear of a vicious assault in your local newspaper. We may be pushed towards the issue emotionally. Our commitment often remains intellectual, rather than involving our feelings. The intensity of our feelings can easily slip away, unless we are a rape victim or very, very close to a rape victim.
One's emotional commitment to the issue may lessen. The difficulty of facing what to do as a man may sink in. Often men's commitment to anti-rape work slips away. This can anger women (and some men) who feel that rape should be seen primarily as a men's issue. Seeing well-intentioned men do little or nothing after being supposedly committed to anti-rape work makes one less likely to take seriously other men who say they are going to do anti-rape work.
Most women are very happy to see men doing meaningful anti-rape work. It is easy when this happens to take the praise one can get from women seriously, and begin seeking more praise from women as time goes on. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with getting strokes from women. The problem comes when one gets few strokes from men. One may begin doing things to get strokes from the women, or to get in bed with the women, rather than because one believes in what one is doing.
Forming an anti-rape group with women can easily appear as competition for existing women's anti-rape groups. Often rape crisis centers and other women's groups do not include male members. When a group has been doing excellent work for some time and suddenly some men are "taking away" either potential or actual volunteers from the original group, there can be anger and pain. Similarly some men are not used to functioning in organizations dominated by women. It can be difficult for us to begin to work in an existing women's organization, where we are not only the new gofer, but also a man.
This does not mean that men's anti-rape work should not be done with women. What it means is that one should communicate with existing groups, minimize competition with them, and seek the best way of doing one's work locally. Options that can exist include: working as a part of or auxiliary to an existing group, forming a men's only group that works in cooperation with one or more existing groups or forming a group that includes women in it. Some men work individually with rape crisis centers, working with men and/or doing public speaking on the issue. In Eugene, local men meet regularly with women in their group because of the importance such communication. But they jointly decided not to supplant women co-presenters from the Rape Crisis Network with women from Men Against Rape.
In Madison we formed a men's only group and we have found that the best way for us. We did it this way for a variety of related reasons. We felt that forming a group with women would inevitably be perceived (or actually) compete with our local Rape Crisis Center and other women's groups. Doing this would negate the valuable work that they had done for years. They had helped us build up our sensitivity to the issues. We also felt a need to work out our issues among other men, and then talk with women when we felt a little clearer on our issues.
Early on in our existence, we weren't totally clear about whether we wanted to focus our workshops on men only or men with women present. We invited two women from the local Rape Crisis Center to come to one of our regular meetings. They showed us a film. We then accepted their offer of taking time to discuss it among ourselves. We invited them back in. One of them then asked a very general question about our reaction to the film. We were normally very talkative, with members having trouble getting a word in. This time we spoke infrequently and with very few words. Our resentment of each other grew, as our supposed unity crumbled. The women were supportive. We were the ones with the trouble. We decided that if we couldn't
Being male only has allowed us to work with a wide variety of local women's groups when we are doing workshops that are for both men and women. We work with men's only workshops. It has helped us focus on learning to work cooperatively with men. Without being male separatist, we no longer need the mediation of women.
It is important to keep the communication open with other groups, particularly with women's groups. It is easy to have misunderstandings and other disagreements that can be blown out of proportion. Avoiding competition with any other groups is important. There is so much work that can be done, and nowhere near enough people to do all the work.
Several years ago we scheduled a "Men Stopping Rape Week" the same week as Women's History Week. Both events were on the University of Wisconsin campus. We had talked briefly with one woman connected with Women's History Week, who thought that our events would complement their events, rather than compete with them. We had a very difficult time working out compromises with other leaders of Women's History Week. We had not clarified the issue with the right people and felt a lot of anger directed at us. When communication and connectedness are very good, misunderstandings will be unlikely. When there is any
Burnout is a common result of activism in many areas. It can come either personally in an active member of a group or within the group as a whole. Within men's anti-rape work it can be a particular problem for various reasons. Failing to deal with it productively will result in either the loss of otherwise effective members of a group or the end of the group itself.
Preventing burnout in men's anti-rape work requires a mindset where one recognizes that one is working on a cause for the long-run and that no matter what one does, there is going to be much more work for a long, long time. It is much easier to intellectualize this concept that to accept it at an emotional level.
It is necessary to focus on one's personal needs as a man and keep good communication open within the group. It is very easy to get very goal oriented. One can forget about one's needs as a normal human being. It can help to take time to be frivolous and not serious with one's allies. It can be difficult but necessary to let go occasionally from one's serious work within the group. In the long run one can be much more effective when one is in touch with one's feelings and knows one's allies as more than just partners in important work.
One may have significant others, children, outside jobs, interests in a variety of other areas, etc. It is important not to neglect these important parts of one's life. Balancing these commitments is often not easy to do. Your group may become very task oriented and people may start to feel stressed out. It may be good then to take a weekend day to spend time together with others in your group. You may want to be hiking, in a hot tub, canoeing, at the beach, at a museum or doing many other things.
It is important to keep the communication open within one's group, particularly when one feels stressed out or feels that others are burning themselves out. It is good to check out others' feelings, rather than presuming that what one senses is correct. Some groups do co-counseling within their group to deal with their issues. Others may need to have regular non-business meetings which focus on internal consciousness raising and other personal issues.
It is especially important to focus on burnout issues when an individual or small group is doing a large percentage of the group's work. If they burn out, there can be a tremendous void that is difficult to bridge. It is important to recognize one's individual and collective limits at all times. When one starts out, few people may show interest in a group. As the work develops, the number of inquiries can grow tremendously. It is easy to feel that one must be everywhere one is requested to be. This may not always be possible. It is easy for individuals to commit a group to things and then feel that they personally must be there, when others are unable or unwilling to go.
To some degree these problems can be dealt with by trying to control the environment one works in. If one is doing college dormitory workshops, one may need to try to schedule things well in advance. Numerous letters and phone calls to dorm leaders can help get workshops scheduled
XIII. THE MEDIA
The various media can appear both strongly positive and negative towards men's anti-rape work and frequently they are both. Initial reactions locally can be either apathetic, positive or negative.
Apathy is a common reaction unless one's work is seen as newsworthy. To be newsworthy one must be visible and in many cases controversial. When one starts out it is often a good idea not to focus much energy on the media. Getting a brief article in a campus newspaper or something similar may not be difficult to do. It may help get others interested in one's group. It is important to recognize that when one doesn't have printed materials, a track record of actions in public, and in some cases a "sponsor", one is often deemed unimportant for the media. It is more important early on to be able to generate one's own publicity through announcements, posters, word of mouth etc, rather than relying on the media. One can easily expect publicity, and it may never
When there is positive media coverage it often comes from the interest of a sympathetic (generally) female reporter. Men focusing on rape is a novel and new idea that can be easily explored by someone who is interested in the topic. It is good to develop a good working relationship with media people who show interest in our work. They can often be helpful in advising us how to get further in's into the media. It is important to recognize that there can be limitations on these people, such as editors, station or department managers, etc., who can make things difficult.
When MSR was quite new, a local newspaper reporter interviewed several of us for an article on our group. She called us back the next day and told us that her editor had made her re-write the article, because it made us look "too good". She had to write a "balanced" article, that would try to point out good and bad things about us. The article ended up being relatively worthless, although it gave us publicity at a time, when we had little publicity.
A bad side of media coverage can be the desire of media people to dig in and make one look foolish and bad. When Men Stopping Rape first put out our pamphlets, the media had a heyday with our suggestion that "men consider the feelings that we would have if we wore a dress and other female identified clothing in public". We were trying to get at the fear that we would have of being physically assaulted and ridiculed by men we did not know in downtown Madison. There are not a lot of ways that most men can imagine the fears of sexual assault and harassment that many women experience constantly. Very quickly we were "suggesting" that men be transvestites, according to various local media. We didn't back down on what we were saying,
If one is going to be severely hurt by negative media coverage, I would suggest minimizing one's efforts with the media. One's words can easily get twisted and/or misquoted and if one is already vulnerable, this can make a new group feel very, very bad. If one is confident of that one is talking about, this can work to one's favor. Our early negative publicity gave us a lot of visibility, when we were having trouble getting public exposure. It also helped us in the long-run as various media and non-media people saw how serious we really are. The fact that we didn't disappear like many others do after a little initial hype gave us a lot of respect in the community.
It is important in any group to clarify who should speak for the group with the media. Initially it is often useful for one or two men to be spokespeople. It may continue to be useful to work that way. In Men Stopping Rape we have found that generally new members don't want to be extensively quoted in the media. We trust what others in our group will say, so we don't need to have a single spokesperson.
Having a particular spokesperson or a spokesperson committee within one's group can be useful in helping the group focus on media coverage. As one's media exposure becomes more important, this becomes a better and better idea. Whether this is a good idea may also depend upon the dynamics of the group, the local media situation and other related variables.
In focussing on the media it is important to see how one's coverage in the media will relate to the level of media that one deals with. A neighborhood or campus newspaper is not likely to cut down a story by 75% or axe it like a television network may. Chuck Schobert of MSR spoke at Syracuse University and was filmed for over six hours by one of the three major networks. He was interviewed extensively by a well-known media person. All this was for a 15 minute segment on prime time national television. Despite the efforts of the interviewer,
Similarly, on several occasions major network crews were going to film Men Stopping Rape for segments on television only to have budgetary or other constraints prevent anything from happening. This is normal television protocol, although at first it can be very unnerving.
Avoiding investing too much energy in the media will minimize feeling that you have been badly used. We can not control what they will print or show on television. Similarly talk shows can be ridiculous if the host will not let one say what one wants. Frequent interruptions or callers asking questions that repeatedly keep one off of one's topic can be very annoying. Over time one learns what works best and how not to be run over by others in the quest for coverage.
Media allies can also help one hone one's skills in public, giving good advice that can help with other public speaking. It is important to be able to speak concisely and to speak clearly. When one hears one's 45 second sentence cut in half over the air, one realizes that a 20 second sentence would have been much better. Learning to be quotable without losing one's message is a skill that is very useful in a lot of contexts.
XIV. COMMUNICATION OUTSIDE ONE'S GROUP
Communication with others is an area that we learned to do gradually, with a lot of rocky efforts. We would frequently try to communicate directly and "logically", only to find that our methods just didn't work. In general we learned to study who we were trying to reach and the best ways to reach them, before we tried anything significant. A good example of our early problems was when we talked with the head of a university dormitory. We alienated various heads of the dormitory bureaucracy above the level of the dormitory leader without knowing it.
It can often be very important to work effectively within and outside large systems. That can seem very illogical at first. MSR initially approached dormitory leaders about doing workshops within their units. We didn't realize that we were stepping into the midst of jurisdictional complications. Higher ups at first seemed to sabotage our work. It often is confusing to figure out who one should approach. Paradoxically it can be important to deal with higher ups in organizations at an early stage of a group's existence. They then may have little interest in you, because you are a new, untested group.
It helps to brainstorm regularly for allies and various other in's to help deal with large organizations. The more potentially complex an organization is, the more important this becomes. If no one in your group knows a newspaper reporter, dorm leader or whomever, try for friends of friends. It is very important at an early stage of development to get at least the tacit support of the highest level of relevant leadership in a bureaucracy. It is often a good idea to sound out several people within such a system about how to do this. When such people are
It is important not to underestimate the "fiefdoms" that can exist. In dealing with a public school system one may potentially need to deal with people such as the: 1) Superintendent, 2) Curriculum Coordinator, 3) Social Work Head, 4) Health Program Coordinator, 5) Principal, 6) Department Head and of course 7) Teacher. Avoiding contact with the Social Work head may result in her/him believing that you are infringing on her/his area. This may result in complaints to higher ups which may end any hopes you may have of getting in to the schools.
It is also important to work at the micro level to get your program going effectively. One needs individual teachers, guidance counselors etc. who will help deal with the bureaucracy and help you get into their classes. In situations such as a college dormitory, it is crucial to have the dorm floor leaders on one's side. Inviting men to come to an all dormitory meeting can be ineffective, unless there will be some peer influence that will get men there. In Madison we initially leafletted over 1500 men's mailboxes, and drew an audience of one man who came 20 minutes late. On individual dormitory floors one can often draw 20-35% or more of the men if their floor leader is respected by the residents, and the men feel welcome.
When you have in's use them, but don't abuse them. Ask for their advice. Find out how they can help you and how they can't help you. Nurture your working relationships so that helpful people will continue to be helpful. It is important to build up allies in ways that you don't get allied with them against others. Within some women's communities there can be antagonisms that may be between radical/liberal women, townies/university, lesbian/straight, anti-pornography/1st Amendment Libertarians, etc. It is good to use one's ties productively, while maintaining ties with others.
We have frequently found that a phone call or other direct contact with a person is most likely to bring about future communication with them. We have found that mention in the major student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin tends to reach students. In Madison posters seem more effective for ideas, rather than for getting people to workshops. In one's local community, what is effective may be different.
Experimentation and group evaluations of experiences may be necessary. One should try to give men options for connecting with one's group. Regular events like monthly film nights can give men a chance to attend at least semi-regularly. In some cases it may be necessary for events to be scheduled at various times to avoid regular scheduling conflicts with classes, work etc.
It may also be necessary for men to see one's group a number of times before they will initiate contact. Thus an afternoon of having a table with a big sign may not draw men. It together with leafletting, mention in a newspaper etc. may lead to contact and possible involvement of a valuable new member of a group.
Fundraising can be more important to some groups than others. Seattle Men Against Rape functioned for a long time as a group that was basically unfunded. Their members must have helped fund the group. There are a lot of things that can be done for free, if one is willing to work without pay. It is difficult to raise significant amounts of money, until one has a good track record. Foundations frequently want one to have a good record, without having received major funding from elsewhere. Only then will they fund a new group. This can sometimes be paradoxical.
Many sources of grants will require 501(c)(3) status from I.R.S. indicating that one is a nationally recognized not-for-profit corporation, that can receive tax-deductible gifts. MSR got this after much work. It has been useful for us. Getting state status as a not-for-profit corporation is of course simpler.
Raising smaller amounts of money can rely a lot on the ingenuity of the group and local conditions. MSR got our first funding through the City (Madison)/County Committee on Sexual Assault. They funded the printing of our second batch of brochures. As we began to get limited funding from more sources, it became a little easier, although it still isn't easy.
Within a University one can seek help from the Student Government, Dean of Students Office etc. One can sell baked goods, buttons, t-shirts etc. One can get small amounts of money from sympathetic local businesses crediting them visibly on whatever one is raising money for). One can do work for special events or businesses in return for a donation. Local and national churches and fraternal groups (particularly when one is or knows a member) can help out. Direct mailings may become more useful as a group becomes more visible to the public. Door to door soliciting appears to be very difficult in our experience. If solicitors are paid, it will increase the necessary paperwork with State and Federal authorities significantly, if one is properly incorporated as a group.
In looking at fundraising it is important to evaluate what one's goals are. What does one really needs to keep going? It is much different if one is willing and wants to donate money regularly to the cause than if one needs the income from anti-rape work to pay one's rent. If one is very dependent on one source of income, the group can collapse if this funding is cut. Such dependency can influence the direction of the group in negative ways. If one wishes to have an office and a telephone, one may need regular income. In other instances one may wish to only raise money for particular needs as they come up. Money can be a savior or a noose around one's neck. MSR has been fortunate to have significant funding through University Student sources. This has allowed us to print many brochures, posters etc. for distribution in the University
It is also important to avoid the appearance of competing with some other groups for funding. Women's groups can often be particularly sensitive in this area. It is good to talk with potential competitors, and avoid needless acrimony.
It helps when evaluating funding needs to do some mid- to long-range planning of needs. This can help you avoid massive roller coaster rides Talking with other successful raisers of money may teach you some of the do's and don'ts. Thus one may avoid spending a lot of time on a lengthy grant proposal, when one has little chance of getting any money.
Flexibility and realistic planning can help a lot. Avoid spending too much of one's own money in the effort so that one doesn't feel used. Good luck!
XVI. HOW POLITICAL SHOULD ONE'S GROUP BE?
When one's group is completely within a university or other organization, one may need to stay out of many political arenas. When one has more autonomy, one has more choices about one's political focus. Often there is a need to play some sort of middle ground, between pretending that one is a benevolent society which is apolitical and being a very radical, lobbying organization. If one gets 501(c)(3) status with IRS, one clearly has legal limits of what can not be done in political lobbying areas etc. This would necessitate not being involved in direct political campaigns as an organization. This is generally not much of an issue.
As one gets increasingly involved in anti-rape work, one may see connections to others' work to end violence. This can involve causes like domestic violence, but it can also relate to causes like nuclear war and United States foreign policy in various parts of the world. In MSR we have found it useful to ally ourselves with various peace causes in loose alliances such as being a part of the Madison Peace and Justice Network. Networking with other causes can be very useful. It can be a way of expanding one's political focus in a limited way.
Another part of the group's political focus can be on other types of related issues. MSR has taken some fairly strong stands on issues like homophobia. Some men are scared off by our stance of being "too radical". Frequently we have heard that more men would support us if we wouldn't have such a strong stand on so many issues. In MSR we do not lightly insert issues into our agenda. We are willing to challenge men seriously on issues, when we feel that they are important.
Every group will need to decide for itself what the equilibrium is between serious focussing on issues, and avoiding rocking the boat too much. I believe that MSR is very effective. We challenge men in serious ways that personalize our caring and involvement. We and they may be part of the problem. We all can help solve the problems within ourselves. We could have a petition drive to end rape and get thousands of signatures. It wouldn't change much. It is hard to change men unless you can challenge them. We have found that some men come back to us and say that our brochure didn't make sense at first, but now it makes perfect sense. This has helped us feel successful in what we do. It is necessary to be in touch with one's needs and beliefs. It also helps to evaluate how one's approach is working locally.
XVII. SOME SUGGESTED WORKSHOP POSSIBILITIES
In planning workshops relating to men and rape it is important to understand one's audience as well as what one is comfortable with. Some audiences will talk readily, while others will be very reticent or even hostile. In some situations where women and men are present together, there is the possibility that some women will not feel safe. If one's audience is over 15-20 people, it is often best to have multiple workshops going on at the same time (particularly if there are enough facilitators). If this is not possible, one may wish to have a group of participants at the front of the room, with others listening and perhaps asking questions at the end.
If the workshop includes both men and women I believe it is imperative that women be a part of the planning and leadership process from the beginning. The failure to have women as true equals perpetuates male dominance. This tacitly encourages rape supportive behaviors. If one's group does not include both women and men it may be necessary to work cooperatively with a women's center, a women's studies program, a rape crisis center or some other women's group. If one does not have a proven positive record visible to the women's community, it may be difficult to get co-leadership. Then one may need specific friends or allies in the women's community.
The best workshop I know of for men and women is the fishbowl discussion. Either the women or the men talk without interruption by the other gender for roughly 20-30 minutes (decided beforehand) about the subject of the discussion. Then the other group talks similarly uninterrupted for an equal period of time. Finally both men and women discuss their feelings together, processing what they have heard.
If one has a very passive audience, like first semester college freshmen can be, a brief film or slide presentation or a discussion by the co-facilitators could help get things going well. It is important not to unnecessarily color the feelings of the participants, so that they feel they must tow a particular line in their discussion. Discussion topics can range from the very specific to the very general. They might include one's general fears of the other gender, how one feels going out on a date with a new acquaintance, what one likes and dislikes about potential dating partners, how one communicates one's needs on dates, what fears one has on dates or on the streets at night, how women and men are different as friends, etc. It is important to focus the discussion on feelings with "I statements", avoiding long monologues etc. This can help avoid "scholarly discourses" which frequently leave people frustrated and disempowered. If there are long silences at the beginning, the facilitators should be prepared to start the discussion talking about their own feelings through their experiences. Fishbowls can start slowly, but they often build momentum relatively quickly. They can leave the audience feeling positive and empowered.
I suggest deciding who should start the fishbowl to minimize some of the pressures participants may feel. If wo/men are visiting the other gender's dormitory floor for the discussion, they may feel less pressure if they speak last. If there are distinctly less of one gender present, they may feel less pressure speaking last. In some situations men may be more open speaking first, or they may not open up at all that way. When men go last, they may react to what the women have previously said, rather than focussing on their own feelings.
Both men and women are often fascinated to hear the feelings of the other gender, often for the first time. It is an important exercise, particularly for men, to be listening and not to be able to respond immediately. Men are often not used to this situation in supposed egalitarian situations. Many women have faced it with men before.
As in all workshop settings it is important to have enough time for a good discussion and yet not to totally fatigue one's audience. In my experience a lot more self-disclosure can happen than one might expect, particularly if participants are not primarily close friends of each other. It is important to not have too much of a gender imbalance, such as having 20 women with two men. At that point the minority gender must speak for their gender, rather than themselves. It also requires too much talking and thinking of what one will say next. If there are very few wo/men in proportion to the other gender I would suggest having a more open discussion without the fishbowl format.
A format that can be used either with women and men or with men only is to have an initial presentation which takes up roughly 25-40% of the time, followed by a discussion of the issues that are brought up or some variation of this. This could include a 20-40 minute film related to rape, followed by a discussion of issues and feelings brought up in the film. This is particularly useful when the audience may be at all resistant to talking. Co-facilitators could also begin discussing rape myths and facts. Alternatively they could discuss their rape related experiences, followed by a discussion of the audience. Finally the presentation could focus on specific or general issues, followed by brief discussions of each issue. One example of the latter approach might be to ask individuals to briefly describe experiences they or their friends had had which made them fear rape. Some questions may not work out well, but one can easily then move on to other questions for discussion.
Discussing what works and doesn't work in such a variety of workshop possibilities is difficult. One's audience can make a lot of difference, as well as the particular presentation. I suggest avoiding initial presentations that are too long, intellectual, super-serious or seemingly irrelevant to the audience, etc. It is considerably easier when the audience sees immediate relevance to their lives. Something abstract can easily seem meaningless to listeners.
It is important to make male members of the audience not believe that they are being accused of being rapists. It is particularly necessary for men to see how the issue is relevant to them. Dating concerns can frequently be the key to this, particularly with audiences of teenagers and older college students. As the audience is more passive, hostile or larger, things can become more complicated. Personalizing issues helps prevent people leaving or tuning out what they are hearing. Good films are often the key in such situations.
Sometimes it is important to have some in's with the men in the audience. Reluctantly present dorm residents with a floor leader they don't like will stack the cards against you. Even in such a setting it is important to get one's message across. Individual men may not have the courage to buck the dominant hostility there, but they can be reached. Many men must hear anti-rape messages more than once in differing settings, before they will change their attitudes. Eventually their behaviors may change. Be alert for possible cues by asking questions of hosts, sponsors, etc. whenever possible. Look for similarities and differences with prior workshop experiences you or others may have had. Take the time to evaluate both successes and failures. Show your appreciation for your co-facilitators.
When one's audience is only men things can be much easier, much more difficult or both. In general when one can overcome the homophobia of the men it makes things a lot easier for most men. Men are often used to relying on women for their emotional support. It can be difficult to express their feelings initially among men. At the same time it can be very scary to say a lot of true feeling around women; an important part of one's topic. Men often say what they think women want to hear when they are around them, rather than what they really feel. Men are used to being around other men in various settings, and this can be used to advantage in
One workshop type I have found very useful among basically supportive men is what I call the "What If Workshop". This can best be lead by two or more men who begin some type of a somewhat real, somewhat vague dating scenario that fits in with the local community. The workshop focuses on three basic questions for the men: "What are you feeling now?" "What is she feeling now?" and "How can you check out your feelings and what you think her feelings are?"
Once when I co-lead the workshop with college dorm men, we started out with the scenario that follows. "You see a fellow student in a local bar. You know her from your chemistry lecture section, but really don't know much more than her name". The story evolved from there. At any point, either of the co-facilitators can stop the story to ask the three questions, or if a new facilitator, to move the story along in a slightly different way.
When we used the "What If Workshop" the story evolved into the young lady coming to the man's apartment. There are no right or wrong answers and there can be serious disagreements among the participants which is fine. It brought about an excellent discussion all during it and helped bring out various issues of men and acquaintance rape. To successfully do such a workshop the co-facilitators need to trust each other and be prepared for ambiguity and confusion between them. We interrupted each other several times and openly disagreed with each other in a calm, supportive way. This worked out fine.
One type of workshop with men can be just focussing on rape myths. Where do we learn them and how are they so wrong? Men can be greatly intrigued and disturbed learning that roughly 80% of all rapes are among people who know each other. Learning that at least one in eight of them statistically may have been sexually abused as children is pretty hard to walk away from calmly. Men can get very defensive about sexist jokes and catcalls and this can provide the basis of very good discussions.
Personalize your discussions as much as possible showing the men in the audience that in significant ways you are one of them. Acknowledge your past and present shortcomings and avoid seeming like some type of god looking down on mortals below you. Listen for cues and encourage audience participation. It is very effective when a man notes that it is different when men whistle and call out to women than it would be the other way men, while the men would not fear an assault from a woman may be heard very differently than it would have been if you had said the same thing.
It is important to mention that many men are rape victims and a good percentage of the perpetrators are straight men. Male rape victims often have great difficulty expressing their feelings. Straight male victims often fear that they will be labeled gay. Gay victims don't necessarily want to be out or to help perpetuate straight peoples' myths of supposedly decadent/deviant gay sexual culture. Discussing some of these issues can help other men, even when they don't openly acknowledge it.
Men can be significantly reached in a wide variety of workshop settings. It is important to not be too hard on yourself when things don't go smoothly. It may be difficult for men to acknowledge that they have been effected by what they have heard and said. When men are seriously questioning their beliefs, they can be either very quiet or very seemingly hostile. Our culture has built up a vivid rape culture in men's minds for many years. Overcoming this in one short workshop would often be amazing!
XVIII. ENDING RAPE AS A RADICAL VISION FOR MEN
Anti-rape work can be done by a wide variety of men, who may have relatively little in common with each other. When one's work is either very short-term or with minimal commitment, such work may have relatively little impact on oneself. If one becomes strongly committed to ending rape, one's work can increasingly impact upon one's life as a whole.
Similarly at the other extreme men who actively support rape in a variety of ways may have very good reasons for continuing to perpetuate rape. Whether their insights into these issues recognize this or not, their behaviors may help to continue their visions of a reactionary world around them.
The visions that follow are only one path. We each have our own ways to move and they can support each other. Your path is probably different from mine!
Ending rape for most men seems like a relatively minor, straightforward issue. Rapists are brutal beasts out there who should be stopped and locked up. As we become involved in looking at rape as a serious issue, things become much more complicated for us as men. We may start out by trying to define what rape is.
Rape may start out as something like: "the forcible penetration of a man's penis into a resisting woman's vagina". Objections may soon come up that rape need not involve either a penis or a vagina as much rape is not like "traditional sex". Gradually we may become aware that rape victims often include men, boys and girls.
Eventually we may start to focus on what "force" and "resistance" mean. Hopefully we start to respond to those who talk about "real" and "minor" rapes in a serious way. We realize that rape is far more than the physical force of some brutal male against some innocent female. We understand that the victim of acquaintance assault in many ways may be more victimized than the person violated by a stranger. S/he has faced a traumatic situation where a person s/he has trusted and perhaps loved has betrayed her/him. S/he may still have to face this person in her/his daily life and be reminded regularly of the assault.
As men it is difficult to view rape as more than a minor beating we might suffer in a fight. Most of us do not fear sexual assault the way we might fear being beaten in a "rough" neighborhood of a large city. We often view sex (and rape) in very concrete terms. When we first look at sexual assault as an issue we may think of sexual assault as brutal force by a stranger. As our views of rape expand, we become aware of gray areas for us as men. Women oftentimes view rape much differently from us. If we listen to them we may become confused. Have we been fed a lie about what rape is? Are we in a totally different world from many women?
At first it may be easy to deal with the issue of resistance by the assault victim. We learn that rape is often accompanied by either a weapon or the threat of a supposed weapon. Many of us would not resist a robbery attempt under similar circumstances. It is also easy to understand how a sexual assailant often surprises the victim. This makes resistance difficult.
Our visions may become muddied when we become more intimately aware of acquaintance assault. We hear that the man was dating the woman. They were rather intimate and she cried "rape" afterwards. Many of us were taught that women were supposed to say they didn't want sex. We men were supposed to keep pushing because we needed sex and women really wanted it.
Initially it may seem rather absurd that we always need to check out potential sexual partner's feelings and desires. Why should we need to ask more questions, when things aren't totally clear. We are not used to talking about sex with others, at least prior to being sexual with them. We have fears of rejection and don't want to face that again. Gradually we may become aware of the need to truly have consensual sex. This can be quite a breakthrough in our understanding of rape as "any non-consensual sexual activity".
When we start looking at our needs to check things out (particularly with women) we can easily open up plenty of bags of worms. Women friends may start to talk about how we are the aggressor sexually and they don't like it. We may become immediately defensive, because we feel that we are trying our best, and being attacked in spite of it. We may then try to lighten up and feel that they are not taking the initiative.
As we start exploring the issues that come up in more depth, we may start seeing things that we never saw before. We may discover that the "radical feminist" world out there may have a lot of ideas that are relevant for us. When we talk with women about these ideas they may open up some and then shut us out. We are not women, and can't get into the women's world. If we get enough nerve to talk with a male friend, we may be ridiculed or ignored.
We may notice for the first time that we men generally dominate one on one discussions with women as well as larger discussions. We may begin to see how little of our world around us we are really a part of. We may be knowledgeable about politics, sports, our work environments and a few other areas. We may realize how little we know about nurturing our family relationships and giving in our relationships in non-material ways.
As we explore areas such as these we may tend to try to bounce from one extreme to another. When we see ourselves dominating discussions we may try to withdraw. Gradually we learn that rebelling against ourselves isn't a solution either. We then may begin the difficult process of exploring who we are and who we want to be.
This can often be a lonely, difficult struggle. We may feel support from some women. It is often difficult to get a lot of support from other men. We don't have a lot of clear ideals to follow. We may see women who have been successful feminists, but we aren't women. We may find it difficult to get rewards as men by following these paths. We may need a fix of our old ways to keep us going.
As we continue this exploration, we may start to question lots of other areas in our lives. Our needs to dominate others sounds a lot like the United States Government's needs to dominate Third World countries. The Russian Government may become less of the "Russki Bears" and more like men who are aggressively similar to us.
If our thoughts expand, we may recognize how our needs to dominate are reflected in our classist society. Whiteness, being male, and being upper middle class can all help us dominate others, who are not so privileged. These types of thoughts can go in various directions.
If our thoughts keep going, we may recognize how people such as our President and many of his closest business allies may have strong reasons for being supportive of rape. They may not realize what they do as being largely rape supportive or they may be craftier than we give them credit for. It isn't that our current president is a conservative, if not reactionary Republican. He could be a liberal Democrat and be very similar.
"Work hard and you will get ahead. If you follow that credo, you will get your just reward. The world isn't fair all the time but the All-American Way is the one good way. If we could only go back to the way things were when we were kids, everything would be just fine".
The trust that these (generally) men seek, is to allow them to continue to rape others both figuratively and in some cases literally. Power often equates with money, maleness and whiteness. Black women must be wealthy to have any power, but they are still "niggers" and "cunts", when others don't see or respect their money, if they haven't lost it.
Power (which often includes money) buys sex! It is not only the reactionary politicians who seek out prostitutes and young women to fawn over their male egos. Our higher paychecks make women unable to leave us, despite our raping and battering of them.
No matter how low we sink, we always think that some woman will nurture us and accept us for who we are. We are after all a man! She must value us and accept our limitations, because we are (??) giving her a lot. We don't need to pick up the pieces, cleaning the house, doing the routine, rather than the gourmet cooking, taking care of the children when we don't want to etc.
It isn't just us straight men that are the problem. Gay men contribute their share, as they are (often white) men. We also aren't always all that terrible. We do share our maleness though with these other men. We may not be just like our "enemies", but we are a part of them and they are a part of us.
Some of this hopefully is now changing, but we have a long way to go! There is no easy answer for how we should respond. We can apologize for our gender, but that doesn't do anything. We can paralyze ourselves with guilt, but what good does that do. We can pretend that we aren't really men and spend most of our time with women. We are still men.
We must live positively as men. We must help create a new vision of what being a man is, to help end rape and to help make ourselves into whole people. We must communicate as ourselves with both women and men. We must confront things we oppose. We must figure out how we can best work to make positive alternatives. We must celebrate our successes and accept our failures.
Working seriously against rape is radical for most men. Your road may be very different from my path. You may disagree with what I see and feel. You must do what you must do.
I have tried in the preceding chapters to express my feelings moderately objectively. In conclusion I would like to focus on a few parts of the work that reflect my unadulterated biases.
Rapists are men like all of us in a lot of ways. We have needs to control and dominate which they use violently through sex. Unlike burglary, rape is not basically an economic crime, so that rich, famous people can be rapists, just like poor people. Obviously the media often make it sound like rapists are predominantly poor and Black, but this is simply not true. The rich are better at avoiding the press, the courts and jail.
In Ohio a few years ago a seemingly happily married doctor was convicted of a significant number of rapes through his medical practice. His wife had no idea he was a rapist. They allegedly were not in a celibate relationship. Although he obviously had some problems, he had a lot in common with other men I know and with me.
If you are a man and you want to work on rape as an issue, I hope that you will explore the issues personally, and keep exploring them personally. We named our group "Men Stopping Rape" not out of arrogance, thinking that we could miraculously stop other men (minimizing the women's anti-rape movement). We had a need to acknowledge that we were stopping OUR support of rape. We were helping to end rape within ourselves.
I think it is very important for us as men to identify with rape as an unfortunately "normal" part of men's lives. This doesn't mean that it is acceptable. We will never be effective at ending rape if we continue to see it as something out there that isn't a part of us. It is important for us to reach as many men as we can as effectively as possible. Do not forget that rape supportive behaviors are learned behaviors. We need to reach our young men in school. MSR has done effective work in Madison Public High Schools. In a few years hopefully we will be able to work with the middle schools and perhaps eventually in the elementary schools. It is important to reach men of all ages, but reaching our younger men is particularly critical.
Don't minimize the work that you do and what you can do. Writing letters to the editor or to one's father or brother can be effective anti-rape work. Being visible holding a sign at a rally is effective action. Licking stamps may be important work. Talking with your co-workers is important. Just being visible as a man against rape is important.
My experiences with men and rape have been primarily related to the rape of women and female children by men. I hope that my writings will in no way support the myth that insignificant numbers of men are rape victims as well! The rape of men is a very, very serious issue which deserves substantially more study by men. Within some gay communities the issue is starting to get much needed attention. Within prisons, where the vast majority of rapists are heterosexual men, far too little attention has been paid to the issue. The attitude has been very similar to that in the community at large, where the victim is blamed for his/her assault.
The rape of men everywhere in our society is a serious issue which very little is known about. A few courageous men have told their stories and largely have been ignored. Most rape crisis centers have staffs totally pr predominantly of women. Many of these women have counseled male victims. They have given help similar to what they have given their female callers. At times some of the male victims have felt like they weren't taken seriously by women. Authors of books and other feminist activists have spoken of rape as "a crime against women". Some male rape victims have felt that this made them as male victims invisible. They feel incredible pain as a rape victim. Society ignores them. Those who speak out about rape ignore them. This can hurt a lot!
It is time that we as men get over our homophobia and our misogynist views towards women and recognize that male victims are out there and deserve our serious support, even when we can't readily see them and hear their cries for help. As long as we see women and not men as our rescuers, nurturers and healers, we will perpetuate our rape supportive culture. This will not help end rape!
I am deeply troubled that we as men direct so much anger in rape related areas at women. A few women are rapists. Unfortunately, similarly few men work seriously to help end rape. Most rapists are men, but most men deny that rape is a men's issue.
Most war makers, supporters of war and others that make wars possible are men. A significant majority of non-violent protesters against wars are women. The victims of war are both women and men. Most rapists, supporters of rape and others that make rape possible are men. A significant majority of non-violent protesters of rape are women. The victims are both women and men. When will we as men wake up?
In conclusion, I would urge others to communicate with me and other men. Write down your ideas and share them. There is one good book that I know of concerning men and rape written by a man (Timothy Beneke's Men On Rape, St. Martin's Press, 1982). If you haven't read it, buy it (it's out in paperback) and read it.
Don't say that you aren't an expert and have nothing to say. Express your feelings, your concerns, your experiences, etc. Tell your feelings to friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances and those you meet! When necessary be loud and clear! Write down your ideas and share them with others!
Thank you for listening to me!