Male Nudity in Public: Time to Put Some Pants On

Come on, guys! We’re streaking through the quad!!

I’ve gotta admit . . . I am a man who used to love me some public nudity.  Some of my friends used to joke that you didn’t graduate from Earlham College if you didn’t see Jamie Utt naked.  It started just after high school when my friends Zach, Jeff, and I just couldn’t hang out without a little bit of nudity.  In college, some buddies and I had a tradition every semester during finals where we would stop studying, get naked, and streak the library.  Weren’t we just HILARIOUS!?  We would go to parties . . . NAKED!  AAAhahahahahahaha.

I didn’t just find my antics hilarious, though.  I honestly thought them a progressive redefinition of masculinity, one that challenged aggressive homophobia and that celebrated bodies.  After all, all those homophobic dudes would cringe and “Uhhhhhh” when my dudebros and I would run around with our things flapping in the wind.  And weren’t we just loving the masculine form that we had been taught from a young age to feel ashamed of and to hide?  Plus, most people found it hilarious (or so it seemed)… so why not keep doing it?

A few different times, women approached me to talk about how it bothered them that I (and my friends) were always getting naked in public.  Sadly (especially considering that I would have called myself a “feminist”), I never listened, simply attributing their concern to “prudishness” and their strange desire to control my free expression.

It took me a long time (and lots of times of being told) to realize what was actually going on: a simple recreation of oppressive, privileged, hegemonic, normative masculinity.

Now, I know some of my readership is saying, “What on earth do you mean by ‘normative masculinity’ and a ‘redefinition of masculinity?’”  So let’s back up.

The crux of the issue is that normative masculinity is (most often) destructive and restrictive.  Normative masculinity tends to reflect traditional values of Western patriarchy: physical strength, stoicism, dominance, self-reliance, control, heterosexual virility, violence, and power over.  Perhaps most importantly, normative masculinity tends to devalue traditionally feminine traits like emotive expression, collaboration, non-violence, community, and power with and through (particularly when men display these traits). As such, normative masculinity restricts both men and women into roles that do not allow either to be fully realized as human beings.  As such, it’s also often called hegemonic masculinity for the ways that it forces normative masculinity on everyone, even those who actively try to resist it.

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Akin, King, Limbaugh, Ryan: Enough of the Men!!

I’ve been reflecting a lot over the last few days about what I could offer to the firestorm of discussion and controversy about this statement:

Ignorant Man of the Week Award Goes to Todd Akin

Man after man has stepped up to respond to the controversy.  Rep. Steve King (R-IA) defended Todd Akin while essentially claiming that pregnancy as a result of incest or statutory rape doesn’t exist because he’s never met someone affected  by such a horrible act.  Mitt Romney condemned the statement, as did Paul Ryan.  Barack Obama waded in with the statement that “rape is rape.” Hannity, Limbaugh, Man after Man after Man…

My voice is not needed in this conversation.  We’ve heard enough from the men.  So this week’s post will be used to highlight some of the powerful statements from women on the controversy.

Eve Ensler

Dear Mr. Akin, I want you to imagine…

You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.

When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only “forcible” rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren’t forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped — intimidating us, threatening us,muting us. Your playing with words like “forcible” and “legitimate” is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures…

I am asking you and the GOP to get out of my body, out of my vagina, my womb, to get out of all of our bodies. These are not your decisions to make. These are not your words to define.

Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.

PLEASE read Eve’s whole piece here.  It’s absolutely incredible.  However, it should come with a Trigger Warning: Strong description of rape contained in the piece.

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Guest Post: What are YOU Doing to Prevent Suicide?

This week’s post is from a guest author!  I love highlighting the ways that amazing and inspiring young people are attempting to change their world, and this week’s post comes from one of those phenomenal young people.

Rachel O’Grady is a junior at St. Ignatius College Prep, in Chicago, Il. She plays basketball, actively participates in Model United Nations and is attempting to gain 100 service hours by next June.

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Two weeks ago, one of my friends texted me the following words: “Suicide scares the sh** out of me.” My immediate response: Well, of course it does. Taking your own life should scare you. One week later, we both received an email from our school, disclosing that one of the seniors had killed himself. Minutes after receiving the email, my friend texted me again “Remember what I said about suicide?” I went back to the email, and re-read it. It hung on my screen for nearly twenty minutes as I re-read the eerie, haunting truth, over and over again. Nearly shaking, and still crying, despite my lack of a close relationship with the student, I responded to my friend’s text: “But it’s real.”

Suicide isn’t something that teenagers can’t grasp. It’s all over the news and it’s become somewhat of a phenomenon on television and in popular culture. It’s not something foreign to many- most have heard of the “It Gets Better” videos, perhaps they know someone who has taken their own life, or maybe they’ve thought of the possibility themselves. It’s not an alien concept. It’s looked upon as cowardly, dumb, even immoral. It’s tragic, and as my friend so eloquently put, it’s scary.

Despite all of that, however, one of the leading causes of death in the modern teenage global community is suicide. Think about that for a moment. According to some sources, you are more likely to kill yourself than to be killed by another person. The leading cause of death for Lesbian and Gay teens is suicide. This birthed the infamous “It Gets Better” videos, featuring celebrities and normal folks professing to the millions that being gay is hard because of they way Lesbian and Gay teenagers are often treated – but it does get better. The verbal harassment that happens to 85% of LGBT students does end eventually. The physical abuse that happens to a whopping 40% of LGBT students does taper off.

The reality is, however, that the words stick. The bruises and scars may not fade, but this is the antithesis of a great high school or college experience. Not surprisingly, teens are still killing themselves. It obviously does not get better fast enough. How sad, desperate, or lonely do you have to be to want to take your own life? How unwanted, bullied, or depressed do you have to feel to change yours and others lives forever? Being a teen is hard. I don’t care if you’re a parent, a teacher, a mentor, anyone – you cannot deny being a teenager is tough work. We have eighty million things to worry about on any given day. Just school alone can yield a whole variety of stress, from the impossible homework to the sudden pop quiz or upcoming ominous test. On top of that, you have extra curriculars or a part time job, which include the pressure to perform every day. And then there’s college. The unavoidable, scary idea of ACT courses, graduating, leaving the place you grew up, and eventually being pushed into the “real world”, despite how prepared or not we are.

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The Sikh Temple Shootings: Why White People Don’t Want More Media Coverage

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen two mass shootings in the U.S. that were committed by White men against targets those men did not know in seemingly-random acts of intense violence.

While there were some differences between the two shootings, the biggest differences seem to be in the identity of the victims and shooters and in the levels of media coverage each shooting has received.  After the Aurora shooting on July 20th, there was ’round-the-clock coverage of the shooting, the shooter’s background, and the implications for culture and politics on every major news network for at least a week, and coverage still leads when any new info breaks on the shooter.  On the Drudge Report and Huffington Post, there were leading headlines with remorse expressed for the victims’ families and takes from the political right and left respectively.

Today, though, only two days after the horrific attacks at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the coverage of the shooting at the Drudge Report begins halfway down the page.

The Huffington Post’s coverage is worse.  In the entire homepage, there are two articles about the shooting.  One is about some asinine comment that Pat Robertson made regarding the tragedy, and the other, with attention paid to the irony, is an article by Riddhi Shah about why the media seems to care less about this shooting than others.  On the homepage, there’s no scrolling image slideshow of the scene and victims faces.  There’s no analysis of why.  There’s nothing! But there’s plenty of coverage of Paul Ryan!

When I turn to facebook, there are few-to-no statuses of support or photoshopped images of sympathy with the date of infamy.  But there’s plenty of comment on Ryan Lochte!

So, in much the same way that Shah tackles this question, I want to interrogate why people in the U.S. don’t seem to care much at all about the Sikh temple shootings when there was such anger, sadness, and indignation only a few weeks ago.  I’ve heard some argue that there’s been less attention because there were fewer casualties or that people had “tragedy fatigue” after Aurora.  I think it’s something much deeper than that . . . and much more troubling.

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“Ask Me Maybe” – A Consensual Take on a Pop Meme

I was recently approached by the organizers of an upcoming sexual and intimate partner violence prevention conference called the Tennessee Rape Prevention and Education Institute. They wanted me to present a keynote on making prevention education fun and engaging. As I thought over ways that the often (and necessarily) heavy work can be made fun, I couldn’t help but think of the power of the internet meme for spreading a message (whether silly like Lolcats or more pointed like Skeptical 3rd World Child).

Since there have been so many recreations and lipsyncs of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” of late, I thought that would be a perfect way to engage folks in conversations about consent.

So my friends and I rewrote the lyrics and we recorded the new version. Then I approached friends and random strangers on the street to lipsync for the video!

And here’s the finished product!