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Getting The Frat Guys To Care About Sexual Violence | The Mending Monologues

Getting The Frat Guys To Care About Sexual Violence

The problem with talking about sexual violence with men is that—98 percent of the time—men are the perpetrators. So there is this guilt by association for men in general that gets in the way of the conversation. If these men also belong to fraternities, this guilt by association goes up, substantially.

Last Tuesday night, we did a performance at ASU that was both disappointing and enlightening for me. There were a group of fraternity men who were forced to attend our performance—and to our credit and theirs—they stayed engaged throughout. Afterwards, one of the moderators felt that something we had said in a monologue wasn’t accurate and she felt the need to clear it up. As an educator, it was her responsibility to do exactly that. She didn’t want these men walking out with any misinformation or something that could be misconstrued.

Unfortunately, what could have been two-minute factual fix to set the record straight, collapsed into an 15 minute attack on these men, as they were singled out. I saw them shutdown and squirm, and finally walk out.

In college, when I had attended lectures about sexual and gender violence, I could feel my arms fold and my walls go up. Inside, I said, “This is not my problem. Because I’m not the problem. Other guys do that shit, not me.” The statement that “all (frat) men are potential rapists” will polarize a room faster than anything.

There’s Got To Be A Better Way.

So, this whole thing got me thinking on how to reach these men. Because the way it’s being done now is pretty much a failure. It can’t come from monologuing, statistics, finger-pointing, shaming or blaming. In the MENding Monologues, we have had lot of conversation around gender violence and I believe our formula works and I offer it here for anyone who wants to give it a try. We come to this conversation not trying to change men, but as an honest inquiry. There’s no agenda here and no judgement. However, the process of inquiry itself will create an opening for a conversation so that statistics, facts and codes of conduct can land when offered.

STEP 1: MAKE VIOLENCE RELEVANT, WITHOUT GETTING PERSONAL.

Ask young men to write down three names of women who have been harmed by men. From date rape, incest, verbal abuse, harassment, beatings, domestic violence, etc. The fact that one in three women have suffered some kind trauma, odds are very good EVERY man knows somebody who has suffered abuse and they know her story. Mother, sister, friend, daughter, girlfriend, wife, etc.

STEP 2: ASK THEM HOW IT MADE THEM FEEL.

Get young men to pick a women’s name off his list and relate how it made him feel when that woman in his life was hurt or abused. Also, get them to speculate and brainstorm about how this trauma might or has affected these woman for the rest of their lives.

STEP 3: ASK WHAT’S THE COST VIOLENCE TO THEM?

This may seem strange, but most young people,  men and woman, are pretty self-absorbed. Asking what this past violence cost them is a relevant question, even thought they weren’t directly affected by the violence itself. In my case, I was in relationship with a woman who was molested by her father. Whenever her father would call, I was the one who had to watch her shutdown and was helpless to help her through it. Her drug and alcohol addiction, which she used to cope with the pain of incest, eventually became my problem and ultimately destroyed our relationship. I have been with other women who have sexually shutdown on me few month into the relationship because of the abuse in their life. Once, I raised my voice to a woman I was dating. It was a simple spat in the car over which route to take to a party. But what I said to her were the exact same words and tone another boyfriend used before she was beaten. That trigger ruined our evening and our relationship.

Why do this? This gets men to see that this problem of violence towards women is THEIR problem, too. Because they have women in their lives, and these hurts often surface in their relationships. This gets them to see that there is a problem. And that there is a ripple effect to violence.

STEP 4: HOW DOES THE MASCULINE CULTURE IN GENERAL PERPETUATE THIS PROBLEM?

Here’s where we broaden the conversation. Now, men know there is a problem, and they are also present to the cost of this problem in their lives and to the women in their lives. Next, get men to brainstorm the causes. From unhealthy role models to alcohol to sexual objectification to unclear signals, etc. we layout the contributing causes of this problem.

STEP 5: WHAT HAVE I DONE TO STOP IT?

We ask men to start thinking for themselves of ways to stop this trend. Again, the ideas have to come from the guys. If we as facilitators start jamming it down their throats, they will only regurgitate what we tell them and there will be no transformation in consciousness.

STEP 6: WHAT HAVEN’T I DONE IN THE PAST TO STOP IT?

This is tricky. But at this point we ask men to own up to where they have added to the problem (in their own judgement). In my case, I didn’t confront a friend who had date raped another friend of mine in college. The rape occurred one year before I knew either of them. When I found out, I simply stopped being the guy’s friend. Yet, because I didn’t confront him, who’s to say he didn’t do it again. I added to the problem. Questions could be, “Have any of you ever plied a woman with alcohol so she would have sex with you?”, “Have you ever let a friend have sex with woman who was passed out?” These questions could be put onto piece of paper and put into a hat and then counted, so each man can remain anonymous, but also honest in their answers.

Would this work?

Why do it this way? I believe the number one problem with having a conversation with frat men around sexual violence is shame. Shaming and judging men is not going to get them to take an honest look at themselves or their behaviors. If you noticed, nothing in here was about telling men what to do or not to do. It was simply a conversation. I believe that the vast majority of men want to do the right thing, but they haven’t EVER had an honest conversation about it.

Let’s start one…

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8 Responses to “Getting The Frat Guys To Care About Sexual Violence”

  1. joannawillis April 11, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    This is a great post. I am new to your site and I appreciate the work you are doing. Its needed and worth the hard work and resistance you face. I was raped on my college campus 10 years ago by a classmate in a frat. We were not on a date or romanticly involved. We were not partying and drugs/drinking was not involved. Thankfully I received counseling, I have a supportive family and relationship with Jesus Christ. These are the things that got me through my experience. Men need to be educated, challenged and held accountable. I edcuate other women and share my story often. We have to keep working hard to end sexual voilence. God bless you and this cause.

    • Derek Dujardin April 11, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

      Thank you so much. We are doing what we can. And thank for sharing your story and your support.

    • Tina Marie April 13, 2010 at 12:55 am #

      Derek,

      Wow what an experience to watch unfold. I appreciate your courage. Your formula sounds fair enough and seems as though it would work in many forums. My initial thoughts are that frats, and their counterpart, sororities are established in today’s culture to signify separation; an American youth caste system that lays groundwork for power struggles between, not only the sexes but various groups on campus and even further on into life. I am not a fan of groups that focus on separation and find those with the need to prove themselves in some way will find ways to harm other humans at their own gain. I do not mean to generalize, this is an outside in view as I did not choose to participate in such organizations given my experiences with hazing, egotistic leadership and self righteous behaviors exhibited by my college peers. Maybe an analysis of choices we humans make or feel free to make that lead to separating entitlements is needed. If we first see each other as equal and connected, it is much harder, in my belief to harm another. – Blessings my friend, T

      • Derek Dujardin April 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

        I agree. There’s a culture of male sexual entitlement, and that if you’re not a man getting laid in college, that you’re somehow not esteemed. I think that pressure for a man to prove himself and make something happen can lead to coercion and rape. Moreover, some fraternities, have kicked out men who have stood up against their practices. Social proof, the idea that something isn’t wrong if everyone is doing it, is a powerful, destructive force in closed groups.

  2. thanks Dujardan! April 12, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    yuppers….

  3. Bonnie Green April 13, 2010 at 7:10 am #

    This blog is brilliant, Derek. You should share it in our “debriefing” call with ASU. You continue to impress me with your heart, wisdom and ability to articulate tough subject matter.

    The world is truly a better place because of you and your work.

  4. Pash April 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    Thoughtful and well-written piece, Derek. Important work.

  5. Dad February 16, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    Derek,
    Wow, you make me proud. Keep this up and I may have to start listening to you. Dad

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