“If girls cheat, there is something wrong in that relationship. Guys can cheat because they just want a bit of variety, let’s be honest”.
Those are the words of Sunday Independent journalist Niamh Horan, uttered during the latest episode of RTÉ series, Brendan O’Connor’s Cutting Edge, on November 30th. And sadly, the comment was only the first in an episode which ultimately painted all men as morally bankrupt, potential rapists. Perhaps I will raise a few eyebrows by saying this, but as a man, I am sick to the back teeth of this type of stereotyping which has become so prevalent in our society today. All men are not potential rapists, and disputing that way of thinking does not mean we undermine women and make it all about ourselves, which is what some critics of the #NotAllMen and #BlameOneNotAll movements have argued. It simply means that the decent men of our society don’t want to be associated with depraved individuals who commit atrocious acts.
Horan’s comments came during a discussion on the revelation that many people are now hiring private investigators to spy on their partners and investigate whether they are cheating. I think I will do as Ms. Horan suggested and be honest. Her comments serve only one purpose; to convey the message that it is okay for a woman to cheat but not a man. It’s not. It’s wrong on all counts, and anyone cheating should be ashamed. But worse was to come later in the show, when discussion turned to the notion of “rape culture” in Ireland, which began with the broadcast of a video featuring thejournal.ie writer Sinead O’Carroll, who believes men are in denial about the issue.
“When men shout at us, grab at us, touch us without being asked, say lewd remarks about the things they want to do to us, there is a moment of panic”.
Undoubtedly, the situation Ms. O’Carroll is describing would be harrowing and completely reprehensible, but her comment fails to acknowledge that not all men think this behaviour is acceptable. Model and TV Personality Vogue Williams, who was also appearing on the show’s panel, followed the video with a story about her own experience of so called rape culture.
She detailed a birthday night out in which she was wearing a short skirt in a nightclub. A man approached her, and put his hand up her skirt, shocking her to the point of tears. She also told of a comment posted on her Instagram account related to the incident:
“If you decide to dress like a whore, you deserve to be treated like a whore”.
This is of course disgusting behaviour, from both the man who touched her inappropriately and the man who posted the comment, but once again, a lot of men would condemn that behaviour and wouldn’t even dream of condoning it. You cannot tar us all with the same brush.
Strangely, given that I disagreed so heavily with what she said in the beginning, Horan did make a good point during this discussion. She referred to a new wave of feminism, that seeks to portray all men as perpetrators and all women as victims, and I would have to agree with her. It flies in the face of what real feminism is supposed to represent, which is the equality of the sexes and the empowerment of women. And this way of thinking is ultimately damaging for women. Rather than empowering them, it makes them feel they should be suspicious of all men, when that’s not the case.
A man’s perspective was also heard on the show, and I felt it showed just how serious a position we are in. Newstalk presenter Chris Donoghue told of his experience of encountering a woman alone in the basement carpark of his apartment block early one morning on his way to the shops. He said the ‘colour drained out from under her’ when she realised she was alone with a man in a darkened area. He had to reassure the woman that she was safe and that he had no intention of hurting her. But the worst thing in this scenario is that Donoghue was left feeling awful, like he had done something wrong, when in fact he hadn’t. The story just goes to show the effect this type of thinking, that all men are potential rapists, is having in our society.
Despite the warped perception of some, not all men look to partake in the kind of so called “locker room banter’ favoured by the new President Elect Donald Trump. We know that a woman should be able to drink as much as she wishes on a night out without persecution, walk anywhere she wishes without fear of attack, not be crudely objectified and wear whatever she is comfortable in without fear of being raped or branded a ‘slag’, ‘slut’ or ‘whore’.
I’m just going to come right out and say it on behalf of all the decent lads out there: We do not need to be told that women deserve our unconditional respect. We do not need to be told that women are not our play things, only there for our satisfaction if and when we choose. And we do not need to take classes on sexual consent to know right from wrong. I am not a rapist. Not now, not potentially, not ever. And plenty of men are just the same as me.