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An apology that gets it right.

December 10, 2009

Last month, Josh Broby wrote a piece in his campus paper, the Dakota Student, One-night standing: the method. Although meant to be satirical, excerpts like this, describing how to commit a sexual assault, led to considerable and understandable outrage:

Get her something to drink – maybe a nice little Sex on the Beach, or some straight mouthwash. If you have the means you could just inject her with some Sodium Pentobarbitone (if this is the case, have a futon or mattress handy, she might drop to the floor).

She’s good and buzzed now, right? Maybe a little unconscious?

Disgusting, right? But when Josh Broby published an apology letter wednesday, I (and others) was impressed. Although he describes that his goal was “to get predatory men across our University to take a long, hard look at themselves and their behavior”, he apologizes for his methods and does not rest on the standard “I’m sorry you were offended” line. The pursuant apology seems sincere and shows that he has learned from his mistake.

I was wrong to think that humor could be used to look at a problem that is so visceral and prevalent in universities. In the article – no matter how each individual received it – I did not take into account the fact that many women have dealt with situations incredibly similar to the one I presented. I did not consider that in writing a satirical piece on such a personal issue, I was taking my position as a man for granted, ignoring the fact that such humorous overtones allow men who may think like the satirical character created to feel okay with their behavior, or to joke about deep sexual issues. The approach I took (I now know) did not address the issue in a way that could help; it only propagated the intense and still-existent rape/predatory culture that pervades our society.

This problem stems directly from a failure to point out this attitude in other men. I failed to do so in my latest article – my greatest fear is that some predatory man out there read it and felt okay to continue his behavior – but I hope this clarifies just how big the problem is. Males, we often take it for granted that we live in a society where it is not only considered by some “okay” to view women merely as objects for sexual gratification, but promoted. In all this, the best way to stop the problem is to support and encourage your female friends to come forward with any accounts of rape they have experienced, and to call out your male friends on their prejudices.

Wow, he really gets it right there. And so when people rail against the feminist blogosphere, and how it gets worked up into a frenzy nitpicking ads and calling out seemingly small moments of sexism, I see the value. When Josh sat down to write his original article, he meant to wanted to contribute to stopping rape culture, but ended up supporting it, and creating an incredibly triggering piece to boot. But when called out on his actions, he took the opportunity to write an incredible piece by a man, for men on rape culture. And this time he got the message right.

This isn’t about getting my point across; this article is about getting you, all of you, to get the point across to all of your friends and acquaintances. Violence against women can eventually be stopped, but it has to come from a willingness to think differently, to open a discussion, and ultimately, to change.

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