I, like many, have been doing a lot of thinking about sexual assault and harassment lately. I decided to write about my own experience in the hopes of encouraging other Grandview men to enter into these conversations. My hope is that in writing about my own experience with sexual assault I won’t be de-centering women’s experience from the conversations—I don’t want to drown out the voices of women in this discussion.
When I was in 11th grade, I was sexually assaulted by one of my teammates on the football team. This locker-room experience has shaped how I receive the #metoo stories. My assault adds to my anger when I read #metoo posts from my female friends, many of whom have experienced similar things or worse. It makes me angry that these experiences are commonplace for women: simply part of the landscape of being a female in our culture.
After some reflection on the cultural conditions that led to the #metoo phenomenon, I’ve begun to feel ashamed as well as angry. In high school, even while I was dealing with that locker-room assault, I was also looking at pornography. Porn perpetuates twisted forms of masculinity and sexuality. The form of masculinity in porn is often based on dominance and ugly power imbalances; and that type of masculinity is at the foundation of the culture that created the conditions of my assault. I was an active participant in the same evil I was victimized by.
While I was in high school, I was also a part of an accountability group where we talked about struggles with pornography, lust, and masturbation (though we had a code word for the latter). The group emphasized personal holiness. I’m thankful for the group; there’s a lot of goodness in being vulnerable with fellow Christians, and taking holiness seriously. But that accountability group never talked about the type of culture that our lust and pornography use created—we never had deep discussions about how our personal behavior effected women in general, or our conception of masculinity. The group never connected what happened to me in my football locker-room to the things we confessed to each other.
The #metoo phenomenon has forced me to reckon with the ways I participate in this specific societal evil. In very real ways, I participate in systems that also created the conditions that led to one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. Sin makes a big sloppy mess of one’s insides. Reflecting on the #metoo phenomenon has left me feeling too many things at once: I am ashamed and angry, confused and ready-to-grab-a-pitchfork.
My high school assault coupled with #metoo phenomenon has left me in a place where I need to talk to other people about why sexual assault and harassment is so prevalent. At this moment there’s a real need for these discussions, and for men to listen closely to women. I believe there is also a particular need for men to talk to each other.
I want to participate in the Grandview men’s retreat to talk about all-of-the-above. I want to connect the dots between the ordinary ways I fail in my struggles’ with lust and the systemic injustices that #metoo testifies to. I want to talk about the messy feelings, how toxic masculinity hurts women, how it has warped my own expression of masculinity, how we participate in systemic evil, how that evil has hurt all of us, and how we can subvert that systemic evil. I want to do all of this with people who share a hope in Jesus, people who believe that we are not beyond hope, and that at this moment Jesus is making all things new.
When I was growing-up, the only lens we used to discuss these issues was the personal-holiness lens. Grandview, among others, has given me the lens of social justice through which to view this type of brokenness. My hope for the men’s retreat is that we can be open and honest, using both these lens as we seek to stop participating in rape-culture and instead participate in Jesus’ redemptive work of renewal.