"I'm a product of my culture. Nobody taught me differently. It's not my fault."
This is the weak cry of weak men on social media, insisting that we are not all part of of the #MeToo problem.
But at some point, we became adults. We knew what was modeled was wrong. Was unhealthy. Was toxic. Was harmful.
Do we really want to keep giving that excuse to the next sixteen year old? Do we want to keep modeling a toxic and warped view of masculinity for our sons and our grandsons? Are we so afraid of losing our privilege that we will stoop to this low to maintain it?
We need to break the shackles of this toxic culture, not shrug our shoulders and let it ride. We need to fess up, to do better, and to take responsibility for who we are and who we will become. For who our sons will become.
I can think specifically of a time in the past few years, when a dating situation didn't work out the way I wanted with someone I still think is amazing and who somehow still is kind to me, where my entitlement led me to act like an ass when she said "this isn't going to work out." I couldn't believe she didn't see what I saw, and I didn't respect her enough to take her disinterest as final, and I acted in a manner of which I am deeply ashamed. I couldn't see that my desperate insistence that we give it another try was a complete disregard for her wishes because I was hurt. And that is complete bullshit, because I am an adult, a reasonably aware adult, and I know better. I realized it pretty quickly, I knocked it off, and I hope I have atoned for it, but I did it in the first place. I don't ever want to do that again. I will keep trying to do better.
It doesn't matter if I intended to do it. I didn't. Most of us don't. So what? Sexual harassment is not a crime of intent. It's a crime of perception. It's how we make people feel. We need to start with the intention to NOT do it.
I won't let myself get away with it. I sure as hell won't let you get away with it. There is no "locker room talk." There is no "boys will be boys." I will call you out. Every time. You should call me out. Every time.
As men, we have only three roles in the #MeToo epidemic:
1. STOP sexually harassing and assaulting people.
2. STOP tolerating other men who do so, in public and in private.
3. BELIEVE and SUPPORT the women who come forward to share or simply acknowledge their experiences.
That's it. It's not hard. Beyond that, we need to shut up, listen, and do better. Maybe it's not too late for our sons to do better than we did. Maybe we can make a culture they can be proud to model.
Contributing Editor: Ben Jackson
Ben Jackson is a writer and father of a chronically ill teenager who somehow still likes him. His non-fiction and opinion pieces have appeared in Patch Media, WBUR's Cognoscenti, and the Penmen Review. His fiction and poetry has been published in New Millennium Writings, The Legendary, 50 Word Stories, and anywhere else he can con an editor into buying his work. He lives in Natick, Massachusetts with his daughter.