A few tips for men ready to create change

Written by Antwon R. Martin

As reports of widespread sexual harassment and assault continue to surface, the spotlight is on the numerous men who have taken advantage of countless women.

It’s easy to point our collective finger in ire at the ever-growing list of men accused of sexual assault and harassment. But it’s a little harder to actually do something about it.

There’s a fiery momentum right now, stoked by survivors declaring #MeToo and men ready make change happen. As men, we have a responsibility to be active upstanders.

What you can do

Commit to a culture of consent that recognizes power in your relationships

If you engage in sex and you don’t have consent, that’s sexual assault. It’s not just a crime – it’s an attack that harms the victim for the rest of their life.

And if that “yes” isn’t explicit, enthusiastic, and absolute, take a step back and take a look at the power dynamics at play. If your sexual partner feels afraid to say “no,” then they aren’t giving you consent.

Keep in mind, consent can be revoked at any time. If your partner doesn’t want to have sex, even if they said they wanted to before, then that’s it. You don’t get to shame them, threaten them, or coerce them. Sex isn’t happening.

Stand against the gender stereotypes that encourage disrespect

From childhood, boys have been told that empathy and emotion are feminine and make us vulnerable, thus equating feminine traits to weakness. And if we, as men, allow ourselves to reinforce those beliefs, we’re demeaning women.

Recognize that there is nothing wrong with expressing your emotions — and that feelings aren’t exclusive to women. Through our actions, speech, and attitude, we can develop a better understanding of ourselves and others. With that, comes respect.

Speak up, but don’t be violent

Rape jokes and “locker room talk” normalize behaviors that demean and objectify women. When you hear someone talking crudely about women – or any marginalized group – say something.

That doesn’t mean pick a fight. The crass language that so many of us have grown accustomed to is a learned behavior that comes from harmful cultural norms. Beating your chest only furthers other norms of masculinity, contributing to a culture of brutish men who don’t have a problem exerting their power.

When you hear someone talking in a way that’s degrading, try to have a conversation with them. If that doesn’t work for you, at least tell them, “that’s not cool.”

Encourage and support survivors by believing them

We live in a culture that blames, shames, and ignores survivors. If someone is courageous enough to open up about their sexual assault, dismissing them only adds to the immense trauma they’ve already gone through.

Just by listening and believing, you can support someone through one of the most difficult times in their lives.

Pledge to being an upstander

We need to change the societal norms that so often turn a blind eye, condone, and breed violence and abuse as acceptable means of control over others.

Commit to stop contributing to that culture. All it takes is listening, learning, and a little action. If you’d like to make a public commitment, SAFE has a pledge you can sign and share. Spreading the word goes a long way in changing society for the better.