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Sun Oct 26 10:34:58 SAST 2014

Rape shows there are no South African men

Bruce Gorton | 14 February, 2013 09:58

Image by: Bruce Gorton

One thing we as South Africans should be able to agree on, whatever our political party, our race, our religious or non religious beliefs, no matter our economic interest or social standing, is that we males in South Africa do not get to proclaim ourselves men.

We do not get to proclaim ourselves men because one third of our brothers rape. One third of our sons rape. One third of our fathers rape.

We do not get to proclaim ourselves men because the two thirds of us who do not do this, we have allowed that one third to continue. A man is an adult with a penis, an adult is someone who stands up and takes responsibility for their greater society and we have not acted as adults.

We can learn from evil, but our responsibility is to stop it. We have not done either. Our failure has cost the lives of the young, and the peace of the old.

We live in a culture where our presidents have to speak out against rape, where opposition parties can form platforms on opposing rape, where it is considered a political position to want firmer law enforcement to stop rape.

We live in a society where this is necessary and we as South African males have allowed it to become like this. Sure some will say that they have spoken out, that some of us have tried to stand up against this, but the evidence shows it has not been enough.

We still beat our chests to stand up for cultures that must die. The culture of male entitlement that has boys getting older but never truly growing up, thinking women owe them sex and whether they get it through emotional manipulation or physical violence only service to the penis matters.

We use words like ‘sissy’ for males we consider lacking in courage, and we have created a society where our sisters have to have courage no man has ever demonstrated just to be themselves.

We call criticism of such a culture ‘misandry’ and are quick to proclaim ‘stop painting with such a broad brush’. Such arguments were in the apartheid arsenal too, and just as invalid then. If we get splattered with that paint, it is because we didn’t do enough to stop the behaviours described.

We have a culture where a woman who has consensual sex is called ‘slut’ but what do we call males so desperate that they will emotionally sabotage a woman they actually like just so they can stick their penises in her? ‘Playas’.

We have allowed ourselves to believe that women who dress a certain way are ‘asking for it’. We blame the victims because it is easier to do that than examine ourselves. We don’t get to claim to be men.

Hell we proclaim making something look good ‘Pimping’ – essentially glorifying a thug who abuses women for a living.

We have males who think themselves entitled to sex simply because they are minimally decent, the self-proclaimed ‘nice guys’ who say they respect women.

In the very next breath these ‘nice guys’ slam women for the fact that their choice in mating partner happens to be someone different to them. That is a psychopath’s respect, incapable of the actual feeling but capable of mimicking the outward behaviour in the hopes of being rewarded for it.

All of that is not rape, but it comes from the same place, a place which values women like animals or objects, not as people. Think about this, when out to insult a woman a man won’t attack her brains, her ideas, her contributions in the workplace, no, he calls her ugly.

Tradition does not provide the answer to this, because we have allowed the rapist to become traditional.

Religion clearly doesn’t answer this; has this God character stopped pastors who claim to speak in his name who rape? Have the ancestors stopped sangomas using their position to rape teenagers? Has this Allah stopped rapes by Imams? Have the Hindu gods done a damn thing about it?

No. We are the ones who have to put a stop to this, because we are the ones who are here right now.

We have to be adults; we have to take responsibility because only responsibility comes the power to change things. It is time for us to become men and say ‘yes, this is our fault, and it is our responsibility to put a stop to it.”

And it is time we began to change things. Part of that change will have to be tackling the environmental causes of crime.

Pollution has been tied to violent crime, we cannot develop the emotional aspects of the adult if we are poisoned. Malnutrition has been tied to violent crime, we cannot develop the mental aspects of the adult without food.

We need to abandon having role models – because we are a generation where a third of all males rape we cannot look up to because one in three of those figures is a rapist.

We need to stop thinking about “our” women, in the possessive sense that renders a woman simply communal property and start thinking about the harm done to human beings.

Our society is one of incredible inequality, and that inequality has more effects than we are strictly willing to realise. We need to tackle that inequality to solve this issue in the long term.

But first we need to staunch our country’s bleeding. We need strong law enforcement, the reintroduction of special courts for rape and an emphasis on speeding up rape trials so as to reduce the stress on the victims.

We need to hold politicians accountable if they do not do this, and that doesn’t mean rate strikes and protests, that means if they do not achieve what desperately needs achieving we vote them out. We are very good at voicing our displeasure everywhere except the ballot box, where it could actually make a difference.

And I am not just talking about the ANC here. This has to cut to the core of all political parties, because this is not a matter of some tribal loyalty but something we all have to deal with.

It is too easy to be outraged today and complacent tomorrow, to set aside ‘issues’ and vote for the ‘bigger picture.’ That can no longer continue, some issues blot out too much of the picture to allow them to stand.

It is time for us to become men, to grow up, and until this stops we cannot claim to have done so.

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