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.