I am genuinely afraid to write this, and not because I fear reprisals; I will not be harassed, or bullied, or suffer in any way shape or form because of my actions in writing this. In all honesty, I will likely be lauded as a forward-thinking, sterling representation of what a man “should” be. I am a “good” person for writing this. So why the trepidation? Why not stride out boldly into the limelight to accept the accolades for being a man speaking out against the horrific nature of violence towards women?

Because I am a man. I have been conditioned since birth to treat women as a conquest. I maintain a tally of the women I’ve slept with, and I consider it low despite it probably being around average for my age group. I feel shame if I hear of someone who has a higher count than I do. My masculinity, and by extension my very personhood, is defined by the number of women I have had sex with. Is it wrong of me to keep this tally? To think like this? A solid percentage of those women meant a great deal to me at the time, and here I am trivializing them into a statistic; into a notch on my belt. A few of these women I felt more than comfortable telling them I loved them, and this is the respect I have for them now.

I am not impervious to the culture that I live in. I am bombarded, constantly, unceasingly, by media images that tell me to treat women as sexualized objects. I am surrounded by like-minded individuals who are a part of that same culture, and they too espouse similar ideals of male sexual dominance over women. In fact, it was actually a woman who told me that I should lie about the age I lost my virginity in order to appear more masculine. To think that any of us, man or woman, can wholly remove ourselves from a culture that sexualizes women and asserts male dominance is incredibly naïve.

That is why I am afraid. What I have been told a man “should” be is not someone who speaks out against violence; it is probably closer to the opposite. Men are tough as nails, and can handle any shit the world wants to hurl down on us. Beyond that, men are reserved, independent, and hard-working. This is what I’ve been taught, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t unconsciously affected by this definition, if not consciously.  To say that men need to change is to go against an entire culture, an entire worldly paradigm. To say that men need to change is to go against all that I have been told, all of the experiences that have evolved me into an adult, all of the conditioning that has made me into who I am today.

I still keep a tally of the women I’ve had sex with, and here I am, saying that I am wrong. I have to admit that I am flawed in front of the whole world. I have to overcome my beliefs about who I am in order to write this. It’s kind of freaking me out a little bit. But I do it because men *need* to change. When we think of violence against women, we barely acknowledge men. We’re not even in the name: Violence Against Women. I am sure there exists some amount of women committing violence against women, but the statistics of men being the perpetrators are so high that a generality is forgivable.

It is men who commit violence. Not just against women, but against other men as well. We are the aggressors in nearly every instance of violence in the history of the world. As a man, I am offended by this. It’s disgusting and it reflects poorly on me as a person. Is it selfish to want to go on a first date, and not have the girl sitting on the other side of the table worrying about if I’m going to assault her or not? Absolutely. Imagine the position she’s in! She is afraid because she knows that there is a higher chance of me committing some form of violence against her than her committing some form of violence against me, simply because I am a man.

I honestly can’t think of any argument beyond this. I’m sure if I put some research into this I could come up with statistics to back up what I’ve been saying, but I think most people deep down recognize the truth to it. In movies where violence is the focus, it is almost inevitably being committed by a man. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Jason Statham, Jackie Chan, Kurt Russell, Bruce Lee, Sylvester Stallone, Robert Downey Junior, and many, many others compared to… Sigourney Weaver in the Alien franchise, Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil movies and maybe a few token others? Even if turning women into aggressors was somehow the solution to the problem of a culture dominated by male violence, female action stars are still typically sexualized to the point where the message of “women are sex objects” is still being projected as the norm.

As it stands today, men commit violence. Violence is bad. We need to stop violence. Men need to change. I feel like a kindergarten teacher, but maybe putting it in childish terms is the proper means to get the point across.

Of course, everything is always easier said than done. How do we upheave an entire culture that teaches us that women are a sexual conquest? How can we create a revolution that will lead to a society that doesn’t teach boys that violence is a necessary form of control?

That’s another reason that writing this frightens me. I don’t have the answers. I work in a butcher shop. I don’t have a degree saying that I know what I’m talking about. Those who began to read this were probably hoping for some harebrained scheme by the end of it that would offer an easy solution to a multi-layered, global problem. I feel like a liar and a cheat for exposing myself like this without giving away any payoff. It seems almost narcissistic that all I’m writing about is myself and a little bit of a social critique without offering anything more tangible.

But maybe that’s all it takes. Maybe if more men admitted they have a problem with the way they view women; maybe if more men took a step back and critically examined the influences that shaped them; maybe if more men no longer wanted to suffer the embarrassment of being the gender that has committed the worst atrocities against our fellow human beings, then maybe change would come.

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