"I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded…"

As the primary perpetrators of violence, men should work to prevent it.

Published in the Daily Bruin

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Though most males aren’t violent sex offenders, they must keep others’ rights in mind when they act

Men must change.

There is an epidemic of violence taking place. As much as we try to shy away from stereotyping, numerous academic studies support and statistics confirm the claim made by Deborah Orr in The Independent: Men are more likely than women to commit assault on either gender.

Just as the UCLA Orientation Program makes clear in its discussion about acquaintance rape, while men commit the majority of sexual assaults, the majority of men never commit a sexual assault. However, as a man, this provides little consolation when faced with this simple truth: I am at risk of committing assault. And to bring this into domestic life: In any given relationship, I am more at risk of assaulting my partner than they are, sexually or otherwise.

Now, I know that may seem like a shocking and perhaps not entirely logical conclusion, but at its heart, it suggests that as a man, I must be self-conscious of not only my actions but also my thoughts. It suggests that society, in a sense, expects violence from men, at least insofar as it is not surprised by it, and it is perhaps this expectation that predisposes men (and, therefore, me) to respond to stressors violently.

The Chris Brown and Rihanna incident probably comes to mind when discussing domestic violence and assault, but it is actually a more personal incident that provoked me to write. I recently learned of yet another friend whose body was taken advantage of by someone she should have been able to trust. My hands tremble with anger just thinking about it. I can only speculate what went through his mind or the minds of any other man who commits assault, but I’m certain he wasn’t thinking of her or what she wanted. His thoughts were on himself. What he wanted, he took.

I could respond to my violent thoughts by acting on them, but then I would be no better than he was. Just as he disregarded her desires, I would be disregarding her needs. My supposedly justified act of retribution would be more so for my sake than hers. I would be acting nearly as selfishly as he had.

So, then, can we conclude that men are more at risk of committing assault because they are more selfish than women are? I don’t think so. I think we are all at risk of being selfish, and if we make the assumption that most of us are good people despite that risk, then “being selfish” is one of the handful of personal sins for which we simply have to learn to forgive each other. We all find ourselves in situations where we want something so much we think we need it, or where we are so hurt and angry we feel the offending party deserves a share in that hurt and pain. But it is men who more frequently take that low road and respond to desires by forcefully fulfilling them. It is a choice some men make without much thought but often with much regret. And while minor acts of selfishness may be easily forgiven, acts of violence amount to betrayal, and betrayal is much harder to forgive.

How must men change? Take the high road, and just walk away.

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