…and sadly, some of you do too which is why this is so very necessary.

Before boys are out of diapers, they’re raised to be aggressive and stoic and to repress virtually every emotion except anger. I’m sure every man you know can describe some sort of teasing or punishment they received when they, accidentally or intentionally, failed to obey the dictates of manhood. This incessant policing of masculinity can be found in reprimands to “man up” by parents, teachers, strangers, peers, etc. It’s also on playgrounds, basketball courts and in boardrooms. You hear it in songs and movies and it precedes fistfights in which the men call each other names like punks or bitches. The worst thing a man could be accused of being is a loser or weak, synonymous with the inability to get what you go after (that’s why men lie on their D and claim to have “hit that”). This type of toxic masculinity teaches men to give it the “full court press” when going after a woman, and as with all facets of their life, they do not take NO for an answer. Their role is to dominate and get what they want first and respect women’s autonomy second.

I don’t know Aziz – never met him – but he doesn’t appear to be the macho type. I think I can safely surmise that he was probably accused of being less than a man on many occasions. When I heard of the accusation and read the victim’s account, I recalled a similar incident I had experienced almost twenty years ago. I dated a man who confided in me his stories of being teased for being less than a man. Our relationship moved slowly, and even though we laid in bed one night, I wasn’t ready for sex. He refused to acknowledge and respect my NO and I while I was enraged, I was also filled with empathy.

I’d been a victim of sexual abuse since the age of five, so fighting off his octopus hands and incessant pleadings to be inside me because he “needs me” didn’t feel like an act of violence. It felt desperate. Like I was back in high school with a horny, handsy neighbor. I felt physically safe but the experience still left me emotionally shaken and determined to receive an apology and explanation. He apologized and gave his reasoning behind his behavior: “men aren’t taught to take NO for an answer. I’m still that geeky little kid in high school who couldn’t get no play. I watched the jocks get all the girls and it got progressively worse when I got to college. So every time I’m with a woman, I feel excited that she wants to share her body with me.”

The age of my ex when the incident occurred: 43.

While toxic masculinity aspires to toughness, it is, in fact, an ideology of living in fear: The fear of seeming soft, tender, weak, or somehow less than manly. This insecurity is perhaps the most stalwart defining feature of toxic masculinity.

And it was why I was more furious than afraid when I was with my ex. Deep down, I knew his repeated attempts weren’t about power, it was about sex. Don’t get it twisted. In no way am I excusing or justifying the unwarranted sexual advances and complete lack of respect by him or any man. Their behavior is just as egregious as Brock Turner and Bill Cosby’s and it’s about time they take responsibility for it.

Men like Aziz hold themselves in a higher regard than men who would outright harass, assault or rape a woman, but their actions fall into the categories of harassment and assault just the same. It just depends upon which state the incident occurred.

These men may champion for our rights and be the perfect gentleman in public but with their girlfriend or f* buddy, they exhibit a disgusting lack of regard for women’s autonomy and the word NO. It’s because they’re buying their own “nice guy” bullshit and believe the old stereotype that assault and rape are violent and physically forceful acts. But the law says force also includes psychological coercion such as being “talked into it” and even though it is less about power and more about sex, they can still get carted off to jail – under the right circumstances.

But the threat of jail shouldn’t be the motivating factor to get them to change their behavior. If they strive to be the “good guy” they claim to be, respecting women should come first. Also, they may find that laying off and being a gentleman would get them more play than if they had to coerce someone for it.

Simply put, getting a woman to sleep with you should never be a challenge. If it is, you already failed. When a woman is ready, it will flow easily. There will be no reason to beg, forcibly place her hand on your penis or devise some cockamamy story to get her into your apartment or bedroom. And the word NO will not be on repeat.

Just like my ex, I believe Aziz and men like them can change the way in which they come onto women. But the key to do so is to reject society’s definition of manhood and overcome the fear and insecurity which drives them to believe that they have to make up for lost time and/or “conquer” women to prove their manhood.

I get it. We want our boys to not be deterred by the word NO. But what parents and society need to stress is that a woman’s NO differs from almost any other and men are obligated to immediately cease their advances, physically and psychologically.

As the mother of a teenage boy, I want him to try out for that team when the coach told him NO last year. And when he’s graduated college and looking for a job, go on that interview even though he heard 12 NOs in that week alone. But when my ex-husband and I talk about dating and sex, we teach him differently. His dad and I have told him that if you hear any words that mean NO, stop, not right now, etc. and/or if you can sense that she is uncomfortable, back up, put distance between yourself and the girl and put your hands in the air. It’s what his father did with me and to this day, I love him for it.

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