Men, Rape Culture and Choice


Like the title implies, the post that I offer up today is about an emotionally overpowering and sensitive subject – men and the acts of sexual violence they commit against women. And while I, of course, acknowledge that sexual violence can be committed by both men and women and that both men and women can likewise be victims, for brevity’s sake, I concern myself in this post only with the acts of sexual assault and rape specifically committed by males against females. This should in no way be construed as me considering any other act of sexual violence less egregious or destructive.

With that being said, let me start by stating that I can honestly say that virtually every woman I have ever known has at least one story about being sexually assaulted and/or raped. I know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of stories I don’t know about. I grew up in a household where the pain, grief, heartbreak, dysfunction and depression of the females of my family was searing and palpable, I know now, largely because of the sexual crimes committed against them at various stages of their lives. In deference to their privacy, I am not going to recount the specifics of the horrific events that occurred to them here, but suffice to say their heart wrenching stories and burning tears have left a lifelong impression upon me.

I write this post today for them and for females everywhere who are and who have been the victims of sexual violence because for too long I believe that by and large, men, including myself, have been too silent on the matter. My silence ends today.

I believe a culture exists, created by men and perpetuated by men, commonly referred to as the rape culture, in this society that habitually normalizes and sometimes even encourages sexual violence against women. I believe it primarily does this through its misogynistic and sexist attitudes and resultant impressions, language and images present and pervasive in the media and society, in general.

The insidious ramifications and nature of the rape culture might be best understood by referring to what is meant by the word culture. A simple definition of culture is this – a way of life of a group of people who encompasses their behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. In a very real sense, culture can be seen, then, as a collective programming of the minds of the individuals of that society.

Using this definition, here’s my theory of how a rape culture, like the one we have, is born in five easy steps : 1) devalue women by creating the principle that women are not equal to men, 2) subjugate women by treating their bodies as always available sexual playgrounds, 3) regulate women by preventing and discouraging them from being anything more than homemakers and baby machines  4) demonize women as inherently evil creatures thereby morally justifying all of the actions taken against them and 5) pass all of this down from generation to generation, thereby programming successive generations of both males and females to think the same way.

In this light, rape culture, I believe, can be seen in the context of what it really is—the vehicle that helps bring about the sexual submission and enslavement of women while at the same time being, along with physical abuse, one of the violent enforcing arms of patriarchal society.

As passionate as I am about all of this, I am also passionate about another thing, and that is this—that the existence of a rape culture and its enormous influence on everyday life should never be used to suggest or imply like the Stanford rapist Brock Turner recently tried to do—that men can’ t control their sexual urges and / or organs.

Turner is currently one of the most visible examples of the principle of when it comes to men and sexual violence, it always comes down to the individual man’s choice of whether to commit the crime or not. It was the scumbag Turner himself who chose to use his penis as a weapon against his defenseless victim, not a culture or a concept.

To be sure, the one thing that all acts of sexual assault and rape have in common is the fact that the man exercised free will and thereby deserves 100% of the blame for the crime. And while this sounds like a simplistic statement, when it comes to sexual violence in this country, it’s never that simple, and too often a good portion of and sometimes virtually all of the blame is foisted upon the victimized females, which in essence, constitutes a second crime against the victim.

I unequivocally say today, as a man, to every woman who has ever been sexually assaulted or raped, that I don’t care what you were wearing, what you were doing or not doing, where you were or weren’t, how much you were drinking or whether or not you were inebriated. If a man proceeded sexually against you after you told him to stop (at any point) or if you were in no condition to say no and he did the same, then everything that was done to you sexually after that point constitutes sexual assault and/or rape on his part, and he should be punished accordingly.The fact of whether he is or isn’t adequately punished by the justice system has no bearing on the fact that what was done to you was wrong or on the fact that as a victim you were blameless in the crime that was committed against you.

I want every female who is reading this to know that if you have ever been sexually assaulted or raped , it was NOT your fault. Let me repeat that. If you, as a female, have ever been sexually assaulted or raped, it was NOT your fault. It was the fault of the person who committed the crime and human right violation against you. You did not ask for it, deserve it, secretly need it or wish for it, regardless of what our society communicates. Any shame or guilt that the same said society has made you feel about your attack is a further abominable offense by them against you.

I say all of this in this post as a male who has never committed sexual assault or rape against a female but who has remained cowardly silent about confronting and challenging how blithely this society has accepted the crimes of sexual violence against half of its population.

As I look in the mirror right now I tell myself that the time for cowardice has long past. I must begin to speak out and work against these atrocities committed against my sister human beings around the world, whenever and however I can, from now on, for the rest of my life. I pledge to all of you, my sisters, from this day forward, and I will also request other men to follow suit. That is my promise.


John Michael Antonio

John Michael Antonio is a freelance writer, photographer, poet and screenwriter. He claims his Midwestern roots while at the same time admitting his incurable and insatiable love and addiction for all things New York City. He has been the husband to his wife, the love of his life, for almost thirty years and is a father of three wonderful children. He is an unapologetic male feminist as well as a passionate lover of fashion, art, movies and music from all eras and genres. An endless dreamer, John Michael is also an avid historian, ex-punk rocker and a legendary Internet surfer who sleeps, on average, about four hours a day.

8 thoughts on “Men, Rape Culture and Choice

  1. Mary Rowen

    Great, John. I wish more men would think this way, perhaps even men who have raped or sexually assaulted women in their past. Having gone to college and done most of my heavy partying before the internet or even email, I understand how many assaulters and rapists may have lost track of their victims by now, and may not be able to apologize directly. Also, in many cases, statutes of limitations have run out. But by speaking out against sex crimes, I believe people can find ways to make the world a better, safer place for others, even if they can’t “undo” or be punished for what they may have done in the past. Not that this will help the victims, but perhaps it can save others from being hurt.

  2. Susan P. BlevinsSusan P. Blevins

    THANK YOU John Michael. It is obvious that your words come directly from your heart. You are right: time to stand up and be counted, not just on this issue but on ALL social issues. All of us, men and women both.

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