Today marks the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a month dedicated to the dismantling of Patriarchy and Rape Culture. It is a time for many Feminist students, faculty members, and administrators to collaborate to develop awareness programs and anti-violence strategies. But as emails circulate through Women’s Studies mailing lists, as ideas percolate in the minds of hopeful activists, and as the posters are painted and banners hoisted, one burning question cycles through their minds:
Where is the support from all the men?
“We’ve been trying a new approach in the past several years,” said Dr. Ambrea Rosen, chair of DU Women’s Studies. “Instead of teaching women not to ‘get raped,’ we began teaching men not to rape. The problem is that men are more likely to listen to other men than to women. And peer mentoring and peer counseling, we have found, are far more effective lead-ins to bystander intervention, which is the general direction we’re heading.”
It seems that someone has finally heeded the call. Richard Fawnmore of DU’s Alpha Epsilon Chi chapter founded the men’s group Fraternities Against Pornography (FAP) in February this year after his girlfriend left him during a period of time in which he was – in his own words – “watching Brazzers like crack.” “FAP is pretty much the only thing that pulled me out of that,” said Fawnmore. “I’m like…standing on a windswept mountaintop looking back at the path I took to get here and I’m like, ‘woah, I can’t believe it took me so long.’”
Fawnmore was quick to inform interviewers of his noble aspirations with FAP. “We’re doing more than just criticizing social norms.We’re taking a stand against a culture which degrades women by portraying them as sexual objects. Since sexual assault is also about viewing women as objects rather than people, it’s pretty obvious that pornography culture inevitably feeds into rape culture. As guys we really have to challenge other men to be better than that.”
Although Dickens University will be the home to the first chapter (specifically called DU-FAP), Fawnmore hopes it will be the start of many FAPs to come as it spreads to other universities.
Although the early criticism of the program included accusations that it was not gender inclusive enough, Fawnmore quickly clarified his group’s position. “We want to make sure people know that women can be FAPpers too. Although they can’t really go about it in the way we can, our honorary FAP sisters can join us in spreading the message that pornography harms everyone in their own way.”
FAP hasn’t had any problems drawing in new members since its creation two and a half months ago. At the student center this last Friday, new FAPper Michael Nelson passed out flyers featuring statistics by Dr. Mary Koss’s recent sex-assault study which concluded that, since the advent of internet pornography, rapes have increased by 501.2% on campuses nationwide. Koss’s groundbreaking methodology features more gender-sensitive definitions of rape that were unrecognized by previous studies. Such forms of rape include tipsy rape , stare rape, catcall rape, yes-means-no rape, he-asked-more-than-once-so-it’s-coercion rape, and regret rape.
“It’s amazing how much rape you can see in the world when you stop using the Patriarchal definitions we’ve had for…well, forever,” Nelson said as he handed out flyers to nearby students sipping on strawberry banana smoothie at Dickens’s student center. “It gives me a whole new outlook on the men I’ve been friends with my whole life,” he continued. “And men everywhere, really. There’s so much I see now that is wrong with most men. Not all men of course, but most. But the good thing is that we can work to change that.”
FAP faculty sponsor and professor of sociology Colin Bunkworth has been openly supportive of the students’ efforts. When asked why he supported the organization, Dr. Bunkworth said, “The new study by Dr. Koss, with the new gender-sensitive definition of rape, really opened my eyes. Once you see the multivarying levels of oppression that reside in the patriarchy-pornography-rape culture matrix, along with all its inherent microaggressions and triggers, and once you realize how men fit into that, any well-educated person like myself would rush to FAP. It’s more than an opportunity. It’s the right thing to do.”
But not everyone sees FAP as a sign of progress.
“These expanded definitions of rape are problematic,” said Harold Blackwell of DU Men’s Human Rights. Why aren’t these definitions reflected in any criminal codes? Is the rhetoric of these activists really proportionate to the problem? Or are they taking a problem that has some truth to it, blowing it out of proportion, and demonizing men in the process? And while we’re at it, why can’t we talk about men who are raped too?
Blackwell didn’t stop there:
“Why don’t we talk about Profeminists like Jonathan Allen at Brandon University, who teaches Fifty Shades of Grey as a graduate-level course? Where is the outcry over women’s pornography? If men’s pornography is an embodiment of ‘rape culture,’ how is BDSM-oriented women’s pornography not?”
On campus, Feminists and their FAPper allies see their concerns as disingenuous symptoms of a deeper problem: a reactionary backlash among insecure men who are struggling to maintain their white supremacist capitalist ableist imperialist ethnocentric heteropatriarchal privilege.
“It’s disheartening, really,” said Molly Coddle, president of the local chapter of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Despite decades of anti-violence initiatives, nothing has stopped the tsunami of rape on college campuses. Women like myself live under a climate of constant fear and intimidation that often prevents us from performing the most basic of daily tasks.”
She paused for a minute to deposit her Starbucks cup into a nearby trash bin.
“We’ve tried everything to stop the violence,” she continued. “We’ve participated in anti-violence campaigns that hold all men accountable for sexual assault. We’ve established women-only parking lots that give women access to lighted areas and require men to take the longer, darker path to their cars. We’ve given women priority seating on university buses. We’ve established on-campus hearings where administrators who previously adjudicated things like plagiarism now adjudicate felonies like rape, with the assurance that no female student will ever be punished for making ‘false accusations.’
“We’ve done this and so much more, and people still look upon us as bitter manhaters for doing nothing more than breaking the silence. Really, all we do is advocate equality for women. Nothing more.”
Standing nearby, fellow Feminist Beth Anderson nodded in agreement. “Some people just don’t understand us. The word ‘Feminism’ gets a bad rap, but the thing is we’re really quite forward-thinking and revolutionary. I don’t think the problem is that we’ve ‘gone too far’ in dismantling Patriarchy and Rape Culture. It’s that we haven’t gone far enough.”
When asked what she thought of the controversy, DU Women’s Studies chair Dr. Ambrea Rosen offered her insight. ”Many men’s advocates say that Feminists don’t understand men’s issues. But I think we understand them very well. After all, as Profeminists like Dr. Jackson Katz say, violence against women is a men’s issue. To a Feminist like me who truly cares about men, I can’t think of a more important men’s issue than that.”