1. Don’t Rape
Without wasting any time here, the first is obvious, and I’ve written about it a lot. Whether it’s about the way we use the word daily or what has said about it in rap music, I’ve scrutinized the act because of how incredibly damaging it can be, how frequently it happens, and the attitude many have towards it.
I was linked to the following video via a gifset on imgur, and while I’m not a person who knows a great deal about slam poetry, this is well-worth the watch:
In it the poets, Terisa Siagatonu and Rudy Francisco, underscore the fact that unless they teach and raise their sons purposefully their children will not know any better having lived in our present-day culture. They also do a great job of reminding us how major news outlets chose to portray two teenage rapists like so-
-instead of underscoring the point that this is how the two young men, and young men everywhere, should have acted and should continue to act:
2. You Can Be A Victim of Rape
Two days ago I came across a response to Chris Brown’s interview with The Guardian in which the R&B star shared that he had lost his virginity at 8 to a girl of 14 or 15. Olivia A. Cole titled her post “CHRIS BROWN AND A NATION OF RAPED BOYS”, which largely sums up her stance on the matter.
The following are Brown’s exact words, proceeded by the author and poet’s reaction to the news:
“It’s different in the country. By that point, we were already kind of like hot to trot, you know what I’m saying? Like, girls, we weren’t afraid to talk to them; I wasn’t afraid. So, at eight, being able to do it, it kind of preps you for the long run, so you can be a beast at it. You can be the best at it.”
“Maybe so. Children can have sexual feelings at 8, but whether they can consent to sex at age 8 is an entirely different subject. Sex at age 8 is rape, especially given the fact that the girl involved was significantly older, a teenager. Chris Brown was raped, but to hear him tell it, that experience was positive, healthy. Something to brag about.”
Cole goes on to share about how she has known other men who lost their virginity as children [rapper Lil Wayne counts himself among them], and how these experiences were always recounted with pride. In later pointing out the behavioural signals that occur after girls have been raped [“depression, promiscuity, unexplained anger, anxiety”] she states that she has observed the same in young boys, and makes a powerful point:
“What if we have been normalizing male rape victims’ symptoms for centuries? This is not to say that every man has been the victim of sexual abuse, but I know more than a few who have been, and their cries for help—the ones that get such attention when our “ladylike” daughters act out sexually and/or aggressively—went unnoticed, chalked up to a male standard of behavior that not only turns a blind eye to promiscuity but rewards it. Can you imagine? Can you imagine being sexually abused and then growing up being told that this is a good thing? That your sexual potency has been enhanced? That rape was a “head-start” into the wonderful world of sex? The damaging system that tells girls they are worthless after rape has a disgusting flip side for boys: you have worth now. This violence has made you a god.
All that needs to be done to put Brown’s experience in context is to imagine if he had been a little girl. Would news sites, like The Guardian, be so quick to present this facet of his life free of comment? Were he a woman would fans of the singer be as likely to acknowledge this fact with respect instead of sorrow?
What Boys Need To Know About Their Sexuality
“Don’t exercise your sexuality with another person without their consent” is straightforward, and will make sense to most children; it doesn’t require much further explanation. “Losing your virginity at a young age isn’t something to be glorified” is something else entirely.
I’ve written about our cultural double standards before in regards to male and female promiscuity, but this stands out to me so much because the conversation is about children. Somehow a boy and a girl of 8 are thought of as being different when it comes to their sexuality in such a way that the boy can be praised for the same thing the girl is sympathized with.
Siagatonu and Francisco emphasize that we can make a change in our culture through the lives of our children, that we need to teach them where our culture is wrong, and in that way change it. I couldn’t agree with them more. I’m not a parent, and I likely won’t be for quite some time, but these two things I’ve shared most definitely count themselves among the many that I will be teaching my sons.
Both should be obvious facts, but since at this point they are not it’s our responsibility to teach them until they are.
While Brown’s denial and the culture behind it are pitch-black disturbing, I can’t help but cast a critical eye on the major media outlets dragging the incident back to the forefront for him. If he’s a victim, turning it into a headline feeding frenzy is dragging the worst kind of trauma to the forefront for personal gain. But at least there’s something for the people to learn.
As far as The Guardian is concerned, they pretty much just quoted him verbatim and left it at that. In fact, the incident in and of itself isn’t even cited in the title or subtitle. That’s what I would call major media, anyway.
Of course Jezebel picked it up, and then Cole’s article got republished on Huffington Post, but for the most part this is more niche websites, I think.
For the most part I would say that the major news sites are choosing not to go one way or the other on this. They can’t call attention to it in fear of glamourizing it and can’t really judge it in fear of being blacklisted by the artist and his fans. The smaller sites have less to lose, and can therefore ay whatever it is that they want.
Not sure if Chris Brown went the right way about it but at least its got people discussing an important issue.
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