Protection Posturing

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If one of those men hurt her, how reluctant to punish him would the others be?

One of the most useless tendencies society trains in men is the propensity to promise protection but not actually give it. Dozens of men – relatives, boyfriends, friends – offered to beat up any guy who hurt me. But when men did hurt me, suddenly they didn’t really mean it. Suddenly there were consequences they weren’t ready to face.

I actually dragged one boyfriend to the home of a boy we knew who had tried to rape me. On the car ride over, he’d promised to do something. When we got there, I watched my boyfriend make pleasant cowardly small talk. I left more disappointed in him than words could ever express.

When I see dads and brothers posing for family photos, surrounding the young woman of the family with firearms, I don’t think she’s actually protected; I think she’s being lied to. I suspect if she accused an uncle or one of their friends of misconduct, the men with their guns would say things like “I wasn’t there so I can’t be sure.”

Male posturing let’s guys feel like they did something. It gives them a sense of masculinity. It does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for the girls it pretends to be for. And I think the rapists and abusers know this, know how artificial and fake this “protection” really is, know it will disappear the first moment it looks risky for them.

What’s more, it’s often not about the girl or her wishes at all. Rarely are the male relatives posing with guns saying “Respect her consent.” Most often their true message is “Don’t touch my property.” Consensual sex she wanted and forced sex she didn’t are both equal affronts to the sexist protector, because it’s about keeping her virginal, not safe.

I’m really done letting society pretend these men are actual protectors. I’m done believing men when they say they’ll hurt an abuser. I’m through with protection posturing, which reinforces male ownership of female life, a founding belief of abusers. Threatening to shoot another man after he abuses a woman doesn’t keep women safe, but it does keep violent displays as a measure of masculinity.

It’s worse than useless, and asking girls to believe the lies is exploitation, endangering their health and safety so that a man who won’t actually defend them can feel like a man. I’m done pretending it’s for anyone but the man posturing.

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One thought on “Protection Posturing

  1. When I got to high school and boys started having girlfriends, I think there was a bit of confusion over “responsibilities”. Boys weren’t sure if they were supposed to hit or threaten a guy who insulted or threatened their girlfriend. They weren’t sure what their girlfriend wanted or expected them to do. My experiences with girls in high school were generally not good. I think it became pretty clear that I was not what teenage girls of the ’90s were looking for. Either in a boyfriend or a friend.

    I guess I discovered as a teen that I’m not particular good at convincingly threatening people or telling them off. I think the code of the schoolyard dictated and probably still dictates that if somebody challenges you or insults you, you must respond otherwise you look foolish or cowardly. When I left high school for University, I didn’t feel the pressure to “defend my honor” so much. It’s been a long time since I’ve ever had to defend my honor or someone else’s honor with my fists.

    I think there is a system where boys and men like to compete and boast or feel that they have to in defense of their honor and pride. And girls and women see this and tend to judge boys and men in the same way boys and men judge each other. They sometimes apply the same standards of masculinity and give the most respect to those who meet those standards. I think it’s a bad system and certainly one that hasn’t helped me. I think that maybe typical male behavior has limited women’s expectations of men. It’s pretty bad when you meet a woman who actually expects you to do something dick-headed because that’s what men do and that’s what men are supposed to do. I’m reminded of a line from a film where a cop has teamed up with a criminal and the cop gives the criminal a gun and tells him to defend their rear. The criminal says “But I’ve never fired a gun in my life!”. Cop says “What kind of criminal are you?”. Criminal says “I’m a nice criminal!”. The cop see criminals as “bad” and likely to have fired a gun, but is disappointed to find that this criminal is too “nice”. He wishes the criminal was more “criminal”. It’s a strange situation to say the least.

    When it comes to helping a woman with something I think there are a few things involved. There’s the sense of duty. A man is supposed to help a woman with “man stuff”. There’s the emotional side. A man might see that the woman is struggling with something and feel bad for her. And there’s the desire to impress a woman and “win her love”. All 3 things can be exploited, but I guess if you have plenty of something and someone else is clearly in need of that something, it’s decent to give some of yours’. At the same time, it’s not as though women don’t sometimes have the same pride that men and want to do something themselves, even if it’s difficult. I definitely don’t want to be the guy who comes over to a woman and says “Here, that’s no job for lady, let me do that”. Even if that would impress her.

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