Louise's Feminist Musings

Notes on feminist news & issues

Are Men Ever Allowed To Say No?

Here’s a great piece about a subject that almost never gets attention:


It also discusses an interesting link between racism and sexism that I (together with other white folks probably) have never thought of.

Here are some excerpts (or actually a large part of it, but please follow the link to read the whole thing, it’s well worth it):

There is a serious need to complicate the recurrent theme and narrative around sexual violence when it comes to men and boys as victims. This brings us to the disturbing case of Danny Brown; a 32 year-old rapper from Detroit, who allegedly “received oral sex” onstage during a concert with over 700 onlookers in Minneapolis last month.  In an open letter, Brown’s tour mate, Kitty Pryde unleashed her rage about the obvious biased and lack luster response to what she accurately labeled—sexual assault.

Kitty raises critical points. Common sense would tell most that getting in someone’s pants without their permission and proceeding to molest their genitals is sexual assault, if the artist on stage were a female “Danielle Brown” and not Danny Brown.  Specifically, is there an assumption of consent simply because Danny Brown is a Black male artist who frequently spits raunchy and often borderline pornographic lyrics?  If we compare Danny Brown to other folks who produce sexually explicit work, i.e. exotic dancers, porn stars, writers of erotica, would it be permissible for someone to sexually assault them without their consent?  So, the question is why is it ok for this to happen to Danny Brown? Why is there no real interrogation of the broader implications, if not the deeper meaning of the incident itself and the silence surrounding it?

Folks are also basing their response to the incident on their perception of Brown’s “machismo” in dealing with the aftermath of “the thing.” Particularly, in his response to Kendrick Lamar, another well-respected hip-hop artist, who tweeted Brown for clarification about what actually happened, Brown replied that he hadn’t even missed one bar while the whole thing went down.

Many folks are taking this response as evidence of Brown’s consent and are suggesting that he was proud of what happened.  With such justification for not naming the incident a sexual assault, it is easy to miss the broader and more complex issue—rape culture in a society that says as long as sexual assault victims don’t look like Danny Brown, all is well with the world. It is reaffirmed that men cannot and should not speak out after sexual assault. It spreads the false assumption that men and boys who complain are not man enough, and those who are victims are gay or will be.  Others can take comfort as a collective manhood is rescued, and patriarchy and its derivatives, sexism, homophobia and other systems set up to reinforce this notion of male invulnerability are upheld. Ending sexual assault can remain low on our priority lists because it doesn’t really affect everyone.

Let’s continue to complicate the conversation by talking about that very history—long standing hypersexualization, objectification and the demonizing of Black men by white America. Historically, Black men have been framed as lacking sexual restraint with propaganda through books and films like “Mandingo”. In addition, the brute caricature portrayed Black men as innately savage, animalistic, destructive, and criminal, deserving punishment and even death and the idea was extended that “brutes” were terrifying predators who targeted helpless victims, especially white women. That among other propaganda provided the argument needed to support lynching. Unfortunately, the caricature of the “brute” and the “Mandingo” Black man rumored to only draw power not from his achievement but from sex, still prevails today not only in the psyches of the victims of this rumor, but in the psyches of outside observers and contemporary society.

It is within this context that men in Black communities attempt to construct a definition of masculinity and manhood.  It’s become understood if not internalized, that to operate outside any of the above ascribed characteristics will call into question one’s sexuality. In the case of Danny Brown, any naming of what occurred on stage a sexual assault would not only call into question his manhood but in a capitalist society, it would threaten “dem dollar bills”.  So it’s not shocking that after a white woman jumps on stage, and apparently without his consent takes him into her mouth, Brown dismisses this by saying he didn’t miss a bar.


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