Alie Benge · Feminism · Ministry and Mission · Social Justice

Where Are The Men?

By Alie Benge 

I went to a talk the other day by the queen of Australia – Melinda Tankard Reist. The topic sounds so grim that I didn’t even want to tell people where I was going, but it was about the sexualisation of children in Western society, and how the normalisation of images of children as sexually interesting and sexually available is fuelling the market for the global sex trade – of which over 1.8 million children are victims.

It was nice being an audience member for once. I’m usually a stressed out organiser of the event, or an incredibly nervous speaker. The talk was so good – by which I mean horribly upsetting but really informative. But I was distracted for the same reason I’m distracted at all these events, including my own ones. The room was full of women with a handful of men. The first event I ran had quite a few guys come along, but at every event since then, the male turn out has been about one or two percent of the crowd. In trying to think why this is the case, the only answer I can think of is that sex trafficking and the objectification of women and children has been relegated to a ‘woman’s problem’.

If anything, these issues are a men’s problem. Just because you have never been on a sex tour doesn’t mean this isn’t your issue. The global sex trade is targeted at you. It is customised for male sexuality. Without male customers there would be no sex trade. And yet, Destiny Rescue funding nations are fuelled by women. The majority of sponsors and advocates are women, as is the majority of the crowd at events. But women aren’t buying 12 year olds for sex. Men are. The men who commit these crimes are men who don’t respect the voices or intelligence of women. So a nearly all female army of voices is falling on deaf ears. We need men to reach these guys.  binoculars-691316_960_720

If that sounds simplistic it’s because it is. I don’t expect you to go up to a paedophile, tell him what he’s doing is wrong and have him change his ways. That will never work. What we need guys to do is change the western culture that panders to male desire and encourages the objectification of women. Glove slap that culture in the face. Challenge it to a duel. Wrestle it to the ground until it stops wriggling. Women like myself, my friends, and fabulous Melinda are working to empower women to take a stand for their own rights and their own safety, but in the meantime advertisements normalise our sexualisation. Ads show children in clothes or positions that invite us to view them as sexually mature. Boys are playing games like Grand Theft Auto where they can have sex with a prostitute and then select from a cache of weapons, kill her and get their money back. These things all lead to a diminished view of women’s capabilities and value.

If you are male and you’re starting to tune out at this point, I am genuinely interested in where I lost your attention. Seriously, write in the comments. Is it when I started talking about women, or is it embarrassment? Do you perhaps think I’m blaming you or man hating? Because I’m not doing any of those things. I’m blaming companies that want to make money. You’re a victim of a global marketing scheme that both men and women suffer under. So many people are working to encourage women to stand their ground under this onslaught of images and indoctrination and keep themselves safe, but who can reach the men?

For a semester last year I taught sex education once a week at a Catholic all boys school. The course wasn’t about the logistics of sex, but about consent and keeping yourself safe – how to say no and how to respect another person’s no, and about respecting all humans. The boys had to fill out a feedback form at the end of the course and despite everything I’d been teaching about respecting women, I got comments like ‘should have done tits out for the boys’ or ‘don’t wear a long dress next time’. The female teachers at this school told me they can’t walk across the playground without earphones in because of the horrible comments that are yelled at them. Yet, when a male rescue agent from Destiny Rescue spoke at the same school, he got an amazing response. Boys were tearing up, and they all wanted to know how to become rescue agents. Why is this? It’s because men will listen to other men. They’re not going to listen to a woman that they don’t respect telling them to respect women. But if a man says it, maybe there’s a chance. Please get on board, guys. We’re all waiting for you.

In your response to this post, please don’t tell me about a guy you know who is an advocate for these issues. Good on him, but he doesn’t disprove my point. I once told someone a statistic about how few women are lead roles in mainstream movies. She pointed to a DVD with a woman in the lead. I’m so tired of people pointing to one exception thinking it disproves my points. I’m talking about men and women fighting together. The guy you know who’s doing something is probably awesome, but his actions hardly equal a global partnership. If you are male and have been to one of my events, then I was probably stoked to see you there, but where are the rest of you? I’m not being facetious in asking. I genuinely want to know. Let’s turn this into a dialogue. If you have a theory about why men aren’t engaging in social issues, please write in the comments. I don’t know the gender split in our readership, but ask the guys around you and tell me what you find.

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6 thoughts on “Where Are The Men?

  1. Hi Alie,

    You asked for a theory on why men aren’t engaging in social issues? I think there are so many ways we could dice this problem up, it’s a complex issue, but I think one big issue is that we live in a culture where men don’t know what it means to be men. We have so few examples of good strong men around us (and boys need to see men in action to grow into men), we live in a culture that gears us to be pleasure seekers rather than responsibility bearers (5 hours on the playstation at 25 years old anyone?), and we are surrounded by traps (e.g. pornography) designed to emasculate us and cripple us in the fight to be men. The Church – in general – needs to rediscover masculinity.

    But it’s so much bigger too. We need hearts on fire for our Heavenly Father – who takes us weak, broken men and makes real men out of us. Men who are being formed into the image of THE man, the Lord Jesus.

    What a massive issue, I haven’t even scratched the surface. I’m enjoying a book by Doug Wilson called “Father Hunger” which explores some of these issues usefully.

    Grace + Peace
    Isaac

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen! That’s an interesting comment about traps designed to emasculate men. I never thought about it that way but you’re so right. So many aspects of the media, culture and especially porn are guiding men away from Christ-like masculinity (read: responsibility, sacrifice, compassion) and towards bull neck masculinity (read: aggression, domination, cruelty).

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  2. Great post!

    As to answering your question, “where are the rest of you?”, with the subtext “why don’t more of you come?”:

    I think most men in the world today are terrified of being called “gay”.

    I say “gay” because the insult isn’t used in practice to demean someone because of their sexual orientation. Instead, it is used to belittle another man’s masculinity. It suggests, in effect, that the man is “less of a man” than the person speaking, and is not in the same league when competing for the affections of women. Because, in the man’s world, the perception is that the most desirable women must be attracted to the most masculine men. Anything less than total masculinity reduces one’s standing in the mating game. A man’s value is drawn from how many women are attracted to him, with physical attractiveness, intelligence, wealth and power being proxies for this.

    A current pervasive ideal of masculinity is that of being self-reliant; not needing anyone else to help them to succeed. Yet this thinking has two very negative effects. In associating with those advocating for social justice, it can easily be perceived by others that the man is associating with those who “need help”, those who have “failed” by the masculine ideal of self-reliance. But of course, by doing this, it opens the man up to being accused of being “gay”, being less than fully masculine.

    It also hugely turns men off the church – because admitting that you need God’s help to live life is an admission that you are not entirely self-reliant, and therefore are “gay”. This is not at all helped by the reputation of catholic priests only entering the priesthood because they are closeted homosexuals, along with the “pastoral” (caring, “gay”) role of protestant minsters. The church itself doesn’t help by condemning homosexuals as sinners unwelcome in the church – which means men in the church have to try ever harder to prove that they are not “gay”.

    Of course it’s impossible to prove the negative, that one is not “gay”. Instead, it is essential to build up as much positive evidence that one is as masculine as possible. Obviously, having strings of beautiful female companions is one obvious such way. For those men who don’t have the ability to attract women through attractiveness, intelligence, wealth, power or other means, they can feel very emasculated. So they turn to taking those women who are too powerless to refuse, by force or coercion, or by paying for the services of those who have already been forced/coerced by others. All this because the alternative, being seen as “gay”, as not a “real man”, is so terrifying.

    So that’s the problem – but what to do?

    I certainly agree with Isaac’s observation that there are few good role models for masculinity. Of course it would be nice to just tell all men to stop being so scared of seen as less of a “real man”. Yet we also need a credible alternative.

    I think there is such an approach – raising the ideal of the gentle-man, the “gentleman” much higher. Emphasising that a true gentleman is wise enough to know that self-reliance is an illusion, that we all need each other. Emphasising that true gentlemen do care about the poor and oppressed rather than being entirely concerned with self-image. Emphasising that the caring side of a true gentlemen is actually something women find incredibly attractive too (this message has definitely not got through to men, on the whole). I think the church needs to pipe down in condemning gays (why pick on them in particular – we are all sinners), so that men in the church feel less threatened by engaging in “gay” activities.

    But this is all my opinion – would love to hear your thoughts,

    Andie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, great comment. As I was reading this I was remembering all the times I’ve heard men called gay when they talk about church. I think you’re right. Men are steered by the media and by culture towards ‘toxic masculinity’ – a tenant of which is the domination of others. To respect women, or anyone for that matter, undermines domination, therefore undermining masculinity itself. What a tragedy that is. How many lives would be saved if this wasn’t the case.

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  3. Good article with very good points. However when I got to your paragraph in regards to “have I lost you”, even I started to wonder if you knew about your language. My concern with it, and I have seen it a lot, is it does come across as blaming men, and coming out later and saying that ‘isnt my intent’ maybe too late for some readers you are trying to reach. I really dont wont to diminish your message here, but you must also understand if you are trying to sell a message, particularly when it is very important, you cannot have this kind of aggressive language towards your target audience (which i suspect is men in this case). As with all the ‘men need to change’ stuff out there, I think many feel they are being blamed all these problems. I understand you are probably angry and frustrated, but you cannot let it enter your writing or it will impact your message.

    Now I dont normally say anything on these, but your message is too important for me not to share my thoughts. I havent said much about its content, mostly because I agree with you 100%. But the delivery needs to change if you wish to reach an expanded target audience rather than people who will already agree with you before they read it. I’m male and agree and I too find it hard to get these changes too, but I have found through experience and research, being negative about the group you wish to change does not help, just makes them angry and more defiant.

    I have looking at culture of society and how changes occur within it, particularly in regards to culture. Culture is the slowest and longest element to change, and more often than not, it only occurs at generational levels (can be outside, but harder). Greatest example is how gay people are viewed today as opposed to 10 to 20 years ago. Much has changed, but took a long time. My point is mainly two fold. Firstly are we too late to change this issue in our culture, as sex is truly everywhere and fighting it by changing users is hard when it is all they have access too.

    The second is if we do change, try to be more understanding at the start of those we wish to change. You are right in men are victims, but your message at the start makes it look like it is all mens fault. I will agree men (being the primary consumers) are the main driving force. But go out somewhere and tell a bunch of men this to there faces, see how they react. They will laugh, get angry or bang on about how your a crazy person. People dont like being told how reached they are. It is why we still have issues across our societies. Muslims dont like all being branded terrorists as most are pleasant, but some people are doing that. The principle is similar. If we wish to evoke change on men, I think we need a new approach. I am still unsure how, but I have seen this message go out in this similar fashion many times over the years, and as you say yourself, fewer men are there. What we need is a new approach to addressing this. Check out Fight the New Drug. They do a good job spreading their message against porn due to not blaming men, in fact they go out of their way to set up assistance.

    Just my thoughts, as your message is too important to ignore and I would love to see it reach our culture and potentially involk change. P.S. I am in the process of trying to get into a job where I can be more on the front lines of this issue (just if you are interested).

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