Men Can Stop Rape advocates healthy masculinity


Men Can Stop RapeBy Cathleen O’Grady

Amidst the outcry about epidemic rates of sexual and domestic violence, and the problematic instructions to women to avoid rape by avoiding certain behaviors and clothes, there are a few positive stories beginning to emerge: Anti-rape efforts directed at educating men, rather than limiting women, are starting to show a remarkable effect. In Canada, the “Don’t Be That Guy” poster campaign aimed at potential rapists, clearly depicting situations that would constitute rape and persuading men not to be “that guy,” has been linked to a 10% reduction in sexual assault rates in Vancouver.

Men Can Stop Rape MOST ClubIt’s a small step—but it’s an approach that is on its way in, with organizations such as Men Can Stop Rape, Foundation Beyond Belief’s current Human Rights beneficiary, weighing in with widespread campaigns like its Men of Strength Clubs, which provide adolescent boys with a space to discuss common conceptions of masculinity and to grow under the guidance of a strong role model. At Whale Branch Middle School, Men Can Stop Rape teams up with Hope Haven, a children’s advocacy and rape crisis center, to provide these services to boys in seventh or eighth grade.

“Not all men are rapists, but most rapists are men,” says Christine Smith, a sexual assault outreach specialist at Hope Haven. But Men Can Stop Rape, rather than seeing men as a problem, which in itself can be dehumanizing, sees its campaigns as providing positive change by teaching boys to express themselves without violence.
“The MOST Club is about how to be a man, [and] learning how to be able to communicate better,” says Alex, a seventh-grader in the Whale Branch Middle School club.

“We look at the ‘herd mentality’ where [the boys’ peers] buy into what everybody else is saying,” says Jeff Spargo, a violence prevention specialist at Hope Haven. “This club frees [them], and it gives them the safe space to stand up and express what they really believe.” One boy says that he experiences peer pressure about being too open about his feelings; another disagrees with the idea that everyone should be having sex.

Providing spaces such as these for boys to discuss and understand the social pressures to conform to a particular definition of masculinity, and to explore how this definition ties in with violent behavior, is creating an opportunity for the next generation of men to be different and unconstrained by restricting societal pressures. And if the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign is anything to go by, Men Can Stop Rape’s programs will be creating tangible reductions in rates of sexual violence when their investments come to fruition.

Learn more about Men Can Stop Rape’s campaigns on their website, or keep up with them on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or YouTube.