Activist Dr. Jackson Katz, who has pointed out that male perpetrators of sexual violence against women are often enabled by cultural elements that promote toxic masculinity, has said the following:
Blaming victims and minimizing the harms they have suffered is much easier than holding people accountable — especially the powerful and well-connected.
It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term “violence against women,” nobody is doing it to them. It just happens to them. Men aren’t even a part of it.
We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women.
In other words, it all adds up to: we don’t talk enough about the right things. We talk too much about the wrong things.
Fact: Men in the most powerful positions in this country have been accused of violence against women. One of these alleged offenders is the President.
Fact: The important Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) appears to be endangered.
Fact: Our current federal administration sympathizes with male abusers, not victims and survivors. Trump, for example, has expressed concern about how scary a time it is for young men if they can be accused of sexual assaults and has mocked the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly ‘feminine’ traits – which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual – are the means by which your status as ‘man’ can be taken away.
Toxic homosociality, a related phenomenon, was cited by Lili Loofbourow in a recent Slate article. She referred to this as a type of behavior “that involves males wooing other males over the comedy of being cruel to women.”
Regarding allegations that Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual offenses against two different women, Loofbourow states: “In each case the other men—not the woman—seem to be Kavanaugh’s true intended audience. In each story, the cruel and bizarre act the woman describes—restraining Christine Blasey Ford and attempting to remove her clothes in her allegation, and in Deborah Ramirez’s, putting his penis in front of her face—seems to have been done in the clumsy and even manic pursuit of male approval.”
Much, of course, has been made of Kavanaugh’s use of alcohol. But Maggie Koerth-Baker, FiveThirtyEight, reported recently that although alcohol is often involved in sexual assaults, toxic masculinity is even more of a contributor. “If you compare men who have perpetrated sexual assault to those who have not, the perpetrator group always drinks more….But the impact of …other variables — anti-social behavior, for instance, and negative views about women — are much stronger predictors of sexual violence than alcohol use.”
How do we ever end toxic masculinity, toxic homosociality, and rape culture? “…(T)he big focus in sexual violence prevention right now,” states Koerth-Baker, “is bystander intervention — finding ways to encourage people who are neither victim nor victimizer to change cultural norms and stop situations that are turning dangerous.”
Another corrective measure is the advent of courses at some colleges, e.g. Brown University, that address issues related to toxic masculinity.
Of course, parents and educators and therapists—and all responsible citizens—can also teach non-toxic masculinity to boys and girls, men and women, whenever possible. Possible resources include The Good Men Project and these lists of children’s books as well as books and movies for adults. Plus, coming full circle, check out Jackson Katz’s book The Macho Paradox and/or his popular TED Talk.