A lot of your basic outlook is good and on track. Men aren’t the enemies of women, but patriarchy is the enemy of us all. It hurts both men and women and is the root of pretty much all of our social ills because it is a dominance hierarchy. The statement you’ve made below is just factually wrong.

“ If there is any conspirator here, it is nature, not humans. Patriarchy evolved organically from the needs of reproduction, not from deliberate oppression of women.” In fact, here’s why patriarchy arose:

Today, most anthropologists would agree, regardless of their stance on issues such as the universality of male dominance, that an entirely different order of male dominance became associated with the rise of the large and populous agricultural states organized in terms of classes. The patriarchal systems that emerged brought women for the first time under the direct control of fathers and husbands with few cross-cutting sources of support. Women as wives under this system were not social adults, and women’s lives were defined in terms of being a wife. Women’s mothering and women’s sexuality came to be seen as requiring protection by fathers and husbands. Protecting unmarried women’s virginity appears to go along with the idea of the domestication of women and an emphasis on a radical dichtomy between the public and the private sphere.

So, patriarchy evolved, not from an evil desire to oppress women for meanness. Hardly any oppression begins that way. But it did very deliberate strip women of rights and autonomy, including sexual rights and sexual autonomy. Prior to 10,000 years ago when agriculture came on the scene, humans lived in egalitarian societies. More about that in the story linked above.

Even today, most sexism and racism is largely unconscious.

“When Nicole Bedera, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, interviewed male college students in 2015, each could articulate at least a rudimentary definition of the concept (of consent): the idea that both parties wanted to be doing what they were doing. Most also endorsed the current “yes means yes” standard, which requires active, conscious, continuous and freely given agreement by all parties engaging in sexual activity. Yet when asked to describe their own most recent encounters in both a hookup and in a relationship, even men who claimed to practice affirmative consent often had not.”

These young men weren’t monsters; they weren’t bad guys and certainly didn’t think of themselves as bad guys — and yet, they were self-reporting that they were sometimes engaged in behaviors that might well come under legal definitions of assault. “In my own interviews with high school and college students conducted over the past two years, young men that I like enormously — friendly, thoughtful, bright, engaging young men — have “sort of” raped girls, have pushed women’s heads down to get oral sex, have taken a Snapchat video of a prom date performing oral sex and sent it to the baseball team. They all described themselves as “good guys.” But the fact is, a “really good guy” can do a really bad thing.”

These guys who said they valued affirmative consent didn’t have intentions to be harmful or abusive. They weren’t consciously thinking, “This girl owes me something so I’m just going to take it.” None-the-less, their social programming around entitlement to female bodies undoubtedly contributed to them disregarding their own conscious beliefs about a woman’s full participation in deciding what kind of sexual experience they were going to have together.

Marital rape wasn’t a crime in all 50 US states until 1993. Prior to that time, there was a wide-spread belief that wives owed husbands sex, and that women’s bodies were not under their own control — that it was not even possible to rape your wife. It takes time for cultural narratives to change, even in the face of changing laws. Old ideas tend to hang around in our collective unconscious for a lot longer time then we would care to admit.”

Your heart is in the right place, but a lot of your facts and premises are not. People don’t need conscious intent to do bad things. In fact, that’s how most bad things occur — without conscious intent because most people are run by their social programming and their wounds. You are making the common mistake of trying to look at societal problems through the lens of personal identity. It doesn’t fly.

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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