The real man; an interesting idea. This infers that in order to be considered a man, a human being needs to display certain characteristics, certain behaviors etc. And so, the idea of preventing rape by convincing men that real men don’t rape was born. However, tragically, the idea of the real man wasn't explored deep enough beforehand.
Historically, the idea of masculinity was built around strength, respect, the ruler and protector. And this historic construct is certainly still prevalent today, although being challenged now, more than ever, with ideas like homosexuality, metro-sexuality being introduced as social constructs themselves. These certainly challenge many of the ideas buried within masculinity, but do they necessarily challenge the idea itself? Are they not merely challenging the image of the construct?
Feminism, however, has been the major focus of challenge in recent history, and major strides have been made in this regard. We are constantly faced with female CEO’s, government officials, social powerhouses! And this is without doubt one of the greatest successes of modern humanity. Females are now more powerful than ever, and the world is certainly better for it. In fact, it is this movement that has brought violence against women to the fore. In certain cultures, not only was non-consensual sex not a crime, but was never understood to be a consensual action. Sex was something a man was entitled to, and the woman was required to perform the deed; more of a tool than a partner.
However, with the construct of feminism changing so rapidly, has masculinity had the chance to catch up?
Masculinity and femininity exist in contradiction with one another, masculinity makes females feminine, and vice versa. Therefore, a change in either of these constructs would cause a change in the other; every action has an opposite and equal reaction. I believe men are struggling to catch up.
That’s not to say that I’m excusing rape, not by any stretch of the imagination. But, I think the line real men don’t rape is in fact a fair explanation of why real men do rape. Real men rape all the time. In fact, every man that rapes is a real man. Perhaps a better angle to explore has nothing to do with gender. Gender constructs are difficult, misunderstood. This is a matter of respect, whether it be male or female, human or animal.
Instead of the intense focus on male and female, the focus should be on the correct education for all, focusing on the backgrounds and influences our youth are exposed to, the violence, the poverty. The more we focus on gender, the more we reinforce the construct. The same applies to the race issue, with everything in South Africa boiling down to black and white. We need to focus on universal respect, universal understanding, not men respecting women or women respecting men.