In discussing the feminist freak out over Emily Yoffe’s advice to her daughter I pointed out the absurdity of trying to solve the problem of campus rape by teaching, as one author said, young men not to rape.
If anti-bullying programs tend to increase, not decrease, bullying, we might imagine that teaching men not to rape might produce, not necessarily more rapes, but more abusive male behavior.
I make the distinction because rape is clearly a criminal offense. With bullying there is a zone of ambiguity and a considerable amount of administrative tolerance. Since school bullies are rarely punished they come away thinking that what they are doing is not all that wrong.
So, let’s say that you establish a program in all universities whereby all men are taught not to rape.
First, you are assuming that all men are potential rapists. Even if we are willing to say that all rapists are men this does not mean that all men are potential or actual rapists.
If most men are not potential rapists, why teach them not to do something that they will never be inclined to do.
The anti-rape program, if it existed, would be telling a large group of men that they harbor violent tendencies toward women.
This in contrast to a program that sees men as naturally inclined to treat women well and that teaches them what they need to do in order to show love and respect for a woman.
A program that tells you what not to do is not the same as a program showing you what to do. A program that assumes that you are an incipient rapist is not the same as a program that assumes that you are an incipient gentleman.
When you try to produce moral behavior by banning immoral behavior you run into a significant problem. If men are only taught what not to do they will tell themselves that if they are not raping or beating a woman they are basking in the light of moral virtue. If the rules only concern which actions are forbidden, they must be saying that the rest is acceptable.
Rudeness, insults, disrespect, disregard, tactlessness and cheating are, it is fair to say, not the same as violent assault. Yet, men who believe that their good character is firmly established because they have never been violent with a woman may believe that they have the freedom to treat women as they wish or as their whims dictate.
If they are not following a code of conduct they will be following their whims.
Also, when moral laws are defined around taboos, people seem naturally inclined to see what they can get away with. They try to find the grey areas, the ambiguities that will allow them to break the law without feeling that they have broken the law.
As happens with programs against bullying, people who are told not to do something will very often test the limits, see how far they can go and try to get away with what they can get away with.
Are all men petty despots who are yearning to oppress women? I think not.
Often, men mistreat women because they do not know any better or because they do not know the rules of good behavior. Their behavior might very well feel like abuse, but that does not mean that they are inclined, consciously or unconsciously to hurt women.
And then, there is the problem of consent. After all, rape is a crime because of the absence of consent.
But ask yourself this. How many young people today have learned that if two people get together and consent to abuse each other, their actions are moral.
Mutual consent might count as a defense in a criminal trial, but I believe that abuse is abuse and exploitation is exploitation regardless of whether the parties have consented.
This situation follows inevitably from the supposition that all men are potential predators, or that hurting women is part of the male DNA.
If this is true, a man who acts like a gentleman will be repressing his dark side. To be taken as authentic he will have to learn how to practice a form of bad behavior that society takes to be normal and acceptable … like rudeness or disrespect.
Worse yet, women who believe that men fundamentally want to oppress women will believe that a man who is courteous and respectful is a fraud. They will believe that he is repressing his violent side and is not to be trusted.
Bad boys, sometimes very bad boys can be attractive to women when women have been taught to see them as authentic.