Commentary: The debate over rape culture is generational

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ashley Weitz carries a #MeToo sign as people arrive to hear Anita Hill speak at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Wednesday Sept. 26, 2018.

After the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, partisan lines were immediately drawn. On one side, Kavanaugh was the clear victim: a respectable judge caught in the crosshairs of a partisan smear campaign. And on the other side was Christine Blasey Ford: another woman who fell victim to sexual assault and understandably stayed quiet and suffered immeasurable consequences that would span a lifetime once she came forward.

Personal opinion aside, the amount of response I have heard describing the former from women has been astounding. Full disclosure: The women I have heard describing Kavanaugh in parroted Trump words weren’t young. In fact, these women were clearly of a different and older generation than my own. And to avoid delving too deep into the weeds, let me put an end to any of my description of their age as being some form of ageism. As was pointed out by author Vanessa Grigoriadis of “Blurred Lines,” college students of the generation before mine were told to protect themselves from sexual assault by learning self-defense. College students these days have changed the narrative, and rightly so, to changing and teaching men about their behavior.

When listening to one of these women describe Blasey Ford as “asking for it” for getting too intoxicated, I thought to myself: How does a woman getting too drunk put her at the center of blame for being sexually assaulted?

In a recent interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross, Grigoriadis perfectly described the new wave of thinking as two women from different generations holding up a sign: One sign from an older generation had stated, “Don’t Get Raped,” while the new generation’s sign will read, “Don’t Rape.”

Rape culture truly does exist. But the most surprising thing to me was finding out that it wasn’t male/female-related, but rather, it was generational.

Victim weakness. Lying to save face. Objectification based on what women wear. All these excuses box in victims as the ones to blame without any consideration of the other’s role. And no matter what President Donald Trump says, and the pundits parroting this notion about how it is a “tough time to be a man,” in today’s world, the bulk of us, or at least the ones from my generation, understand that being a “man” has come with responsibilities for a very long time. And these responsibilities were reprehensibly taken advantage of time and again.

Every man — and woman, for that matter — should take this moment as a teaching moment. As a father of a 1-year-old boy, my main goal isn’t to teach/warn him of a future where women run wild with false accusations in order to take down “good” men. Rather, it is this: No matter what a woman wears, or how much she drinks, or what other people tell you is acceptable behavior, it is never OK to disrespect, objectify, denigrate or take advantage of any person in a compromising position.

My generation and the one after take a constant heat of being “too lazy” or “too politically correct.” But if these are the kinds of movements creating this relentless self-motivation to be better than the generation before, then I am damn proud to be a part of it. We should all look to the future as a time to improve ourselves and others. And even though I am a man who is far from perfect, I know there’s a future time for myself, as well as a whole generation behind me, that has a chance to rectify and change the culture for the better.

Ryne Vyles, Salt Lake City, is a business marketing specialist and freelance writer.

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