Raising Boys To Fight Sexism And Rape

By , March 29, 2011 2:26 am

What could make a group of 18 men and boys gang rape an 11-year-old girl, take pictures and video of the brutal crime and distribute those images to others?

That’s what they’re trying to figure out in Cleveland, Texas where this horrible event allegedly occurred.

So, how do we raise boys to fight sexism and sexual violence and prevent tragedies like this from happening?

In discussing black masculinity and rape culture – all 18 suspects are black – Akiba Solomon of ColorLines contacted sociology professor Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis and asked for some thoughts. Lewis, who writes about black masculinity, responded with his reaction to the assault and what parents can do to raise black boys to reject and fight sexism and rape.

The focus of Solomon’s post is on black men and boys, though sexism and rape is certainly not just a black male problem. In fact, a lot of the advice is applicable to all men.

Here are some of Lewis’s points:

Whenever a tragedy like this happens, we have to start by acknowledging the value of human life.

Some of these boys and men taped the [assault] and showed it to other people. This tells me that they lack boundaries around the safety of sex…We also need to ask why other people saw a video depicting sexual violence against a girl and said OK, why only one person came forward and said ‘This is wrong.’

We need to examine how we define masculinity as well. We’ve latched on to the most superpowered image of white masculinity, what sociologist Michael Kimmel calls the Marketplace Man. The Marketplace Man is a successful businessman, he has power over his home and power over women. But since black men [don’t have] power equal to white men’s, we’ve created a perverted way to [compensate] for it. Women become our currency. If you have no money but you have five women, you’ll be all right.

One easy exercise you can try with boys or even among your friends: Ask them to describe a ‘real man.’ You’ll likely get a laundry list like, ‘A real man is strong! A real man has all the money! A real man has the power!’ Next, ask, ‘Of all of those things, which do you have?’ In answering this question, boys realize how unreal it is to be a baller-slash-star-athlete-slash-rocket scientist. They begin to see how anybody can question their manhood because they don’t have all of these qualities. Finally, ask, ‘Of the men you know in your community, name the ones you respect and what you respect about them.’ This exercise helps boys create an alternate view of masculinity. That’s the first step in forming a model for healthy black male sexuality.

Read the entire post at ColorLines. Also read Solomon’s summary and analysis of the alleged assault, the victim-blaming and the racial dynamics of the case.

See also:
The Man Box

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