Considering the #MeToo movement from the perspective of male students
By Giovanna Diez
From boardrooms to college campuses, the #MeToo movement sparked a conversation about sexual harassment. But the opinion of male students has not played a significant role in this conversation, despite 1 in every 5 women being sexually assaulted during college.
Not all male students agree on the strategy, history or impact of the #MeToo movement. While some consider the movement powerful and effective, others aren’t so sure. The movement is, they say, complicated.
Claude Offray, a senior from New York City studying international relations at The George Washington University, expressed concern about whether or not the #MeToo movement effectively deals with sexual harassment.
“The cause itself is valid and does tackle a serious social issue, both for men and for women,” Offray said. “However, I believe that ‘public trials’ via media or by prominent celebrity figures shouldn’t be the means for this movement to foster support and legitimacy.”
He warned against blindly signing onto a movement.
“Many people just automatically rally behind a movement without doing research or analyzing the facts, while, others seem to be disinterested,” Offray said. “Unfortunately, the #MeToo movement has adopted a rhetoric that hasn’t been very strategic.”
‘A weapon of war’
Offray said he believes that people should be more concerned with sexual harassment in war zones or developing countries rather than on college campuses in the U.S. He points to Congo, South Sudan and Myanmar as examples.
“Again, sexual harassment has to be defined and framed in a particular context. As a whole, sexual violence is used as a ‘weapon’ of war to instill fear in countries that have suffered from endemic internal/domestic civil strife,” Offray said.
Offray said that sexual assault is an important topic in contexts of war zones.
“Is it a serious topic? Most definitely. Should the culprits be identified and jailed? Absolutely,” said Offray.
Toxic fraternity culture
In contrast, Andrew Eversden, a junior at American University, says the problem is just as important domestically. Eversden, who is from Arizona, said he believes that sexual harassment is a problem not only in other countries, but also domestically on college campuses.
He pointed blame at one group.
“Personally, I feel like frats are the problems and they should be banned from campuses,” Eversden said. “I completely support the #MeToo movement and I think it is very important for women to feel safe enough to speak up about these things.”
But while he supports the movement, he said it is not a central topic of conversation among the people he knows.
“My friends and I don’t really talk about it,” Eversden said. “But I do feel like the general consensus here is that the movement has been a long time coming event and that it is the only way to stop sexual predators from committing these crimes.”
Joshua Dantzler, a student government senator and freshman at American University from North Carolina said he believes college campuses are breeding grounds for sexual harassment, but policies being introduced are a step in the right direction.
“I think that when you have so many people with various upbringings and backgrounds in one centralized learning environment there will be things like sexual harassment that ensue,” Dantzler said.
Dantzler said the lack of language used to discuss sexual harassment is part of the problem. Oftentimes some people who commit sexual assault are not actually aware that they are crossing the line.
Dantzler said colleges need to continue to teach about sexual assault on campus.
“I think colleges are stepping in the right direction towards addressing it adequately, it isn’t easy, but colleges are doing it,” he said.
Dantzler thinks that the movement is more than a mere trend and that among the younger generation it has become a part of both the digital and in-person conversation.
Old habits die hard
Tahir Duckett, director of ReThink, an organization that aims to redraw national boundaries of sexual interaction by teaching consent and healthy masculinity, explained how the bystander effect plays a role on sexual assault.
Latané and Darley said that onlookers are less likely to intervene if there are other witnesses who are also not reacting to the situation.
The bystander effect is defined by Social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley as a diffusion of responsibility amongst people, per a report published May, 2016 by Bakari Akil in Psychology Today. Duckett said that there is almost always an opportunity for bystanders to intervene and prevent individual acts of violence.
“Think about what is at the root of the kind of need to focus in on bystander intervention in the first place, think about the sort of values that are at play to make it a question whether or not we might intervene,” Duckett said.
While the younger generation is working to change stereotypes, habits are hard to break, and traces of sexually violent behavior are seen in universities every day.
According to a 2015 report by RAINN, a non-profit anti-sexual assault organization, 18 percent of non-TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students experienced sexual assault.
Violence, power and privilege
Duckett said the root of the problem stems from the lack of information on sexual violence a boy is exposed to while growing up.
“To actually prevent sexual violence before it happens in the first place, so you take an approach that takes seriously the root causes of sexual violence to seek to break those down, then what we are doing is we are creating a safer world,” he said.
Duckett said his own experiences growing up and in college inspired his direction. He saw a gap in how adolescent boys engaged in sexual experiences.
“I thought about the fact that I hadn’t learned a lot about consent, about violence, about power and privilege. If I haven’t, I figure that there are a lot of boys that identify as men out there that must have the same problem,” Duckett said.
We would say ‘don’t take advantage of someone who is drunk’ as if it was not a question of harm or a question of potential trauma, but just something rude they are doing.”
Duckett said the #MeToo movement represents a big step in sexual violence prevention.
“My hope is that the #MeToo movement is part of a larger, more broad conversation that is going to call into question the relationships that we have [with] each other, and the sort of power dynamics that are in play in those relationships, so that folks can start to take consent seriously in their lives,” said Duckett.
*All subjects interviewed for this story are aware and have agreed to being published both on the class site and NBC Washington online.
Tagged with: Gio