“What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” – Aristotle 

Myth: Men are incapable of taking responsibility for their urges; therefore, women must bear the burden of responsibility in being proactive.

Oh boy. I’ve heard this myth for as long as I can remember. It has come in many forms: “Boys will be boys.” Dress codes for females across school campuses so as not to “distract the male students”.

Carry your keys between your fingers in your fist to create a weapon. Carry pepper spray. Learn self-defense. “What were you wearing?” “She was asking for it.” Keep an eye on your drink. Lock all the doors and windows to stay safe. The list goes on.

This long-held myth has created generations of a society that victimizes women who may live in fear, shame, and blame and in turn treats men as if they are victims of “uncontrollable” urges. This paradigm has women taking on a role of responsibility so they don’t fall prey to these urges.

Sometimes it is hard to tell if these behaviors are really as bad as they feel or if they are made up in our minds. I’ll share an example from as recently as this weekend. One of my girlfriends went out with a guy she just met. During their time inside the establishment, while talking and continuing to get to know one another, he was attempting to make physical advances.

She told him no. He later walked her to her car. There he continued his attempts of trying to kiss her and touch her. She continued to say no. His feelings got hurt when she “rejected” him.

While we were talking about it later, it took a bit for her brain to catch up that these were unwanted physical advances. 

Stories like this continue to happen.

I know I’ve personally had more than my fair share in my life. I have been on a date to a movie where the guy kept trying to kiss me. I asked him to stop several times or I would leave. He did not stop, so I got up to leave. He did not like that response and hit me across the face.

These situations and stories can leave us feeling helpless and hopeless. The overwhelming task of constantly being on the defense to thwart unwanted attention and advances is grueling and draining.

The truth of the matter is there is hope and we aren’t helpless. There’s accountability through grace. A paradigm shift is possible here. These conversations shouldn’t be taboo.

I know many women have these conversations among themselves and the men in their lives. I don’t know if the general population of men have conversations about when they’ve crossed lines intentionally or unintentionally.

These conversations are being held by several of the men in my life- in person and on social media and it is powerful.

One example is an interaction my brother was having with an acquaintance regarding sexualized and derogatory comments the other person was making about a woman. My brother left it with the statement that “if we are to have a fair and equal society, men need to call each other out on their sexism, even when it’s meant as a joke.”

It’s completely possible to create a space where we give women the tools they need to be successful in any situation AND give men the tools they need to do the same.

It starts with the little things from early on. Like teaching children that their voices are powerful and that “no” and “stop” mean just that, even in moments as simple as tickling or giving hugs to others.

We can hold those around us accountable with grace. We can remind men and women, from the earliest moments in life to the latest, that they are capable of doing big and hard things.

We are all able to take responsibility for our thoughts and actions.

“What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” – Aristotle