Men are afraid

Because no one is standing up to do it, I have deemed myself “America’s Therapist.” I have no qualifications as such and my advice should not be substituted for a qualified medical professional’s. 😂
 
Today’s topic: It is a scary time for men and they have a lot to be afraid of.
 
Full disclosure: I have lived with anxiety my whole life. Raging anxiety that makes me fearful in situations where everyone else is comfortable and even enjoying themselves. I am terrified of flying and have only just now started to fly again after 20 years (and with the help of Ativan). I don’t particularly like heights. I worry about sinkholes and I hate it when interior floors feel “shaky.” The minute I get a sniffle, I’m pretty sure it will be the end of me and that pain in my side? It’s probably my spleen. So let’s just put all that on the table.
 
Fear is a powerful thing. And as we all know, fears can be rational and irrational. Or a combination thereof. Fear of flying can be rational because accidents can happen and it would be pretty freaking awful for those few moments when you realize you are in one. Fear of getting sick is also rational, because, yep, it happens. However, these fears become irrational in the face of evidence and facts. 
 
What would a therapist tell you if you said you were afraid of flying? (I can vouch for this advice personally.) She (or he!) would say that sometimes it’s easy to be afraid of things when we are out of control of the situation, but there are strategies to deal with that fear. These two are especially helpful:
 
First, you need to think about the rational facts and chances of something happening. Yes, sinkholes happen. But in general they are minor and cause a small nuisance. Yes, plane crashes happen. But they are very rare and driving is much more dangerous. Yes, people get sick. But the average lifespan is quite good in this country and researchers and scientists are finding new cures daily. 
 

Second, you need to think about that worst case scenario. Say that sinkhole did develop. Right on your property! What would you do? Well, I guess if everyone were OK, you’d probably call some sort of engineer and maybe ask your town or village what the hell you do when a sinkhole opens up? (Note to self: Figure out which professional entity deals with sinkholes.) And if you get a bad diagnosis from the doctor and you are actually really sick? Well, I guess you’d enter into that matrix of doctors and specialists and hospitals and you’d go through treatments and you’d fight like hell, right?

So, let’s take this all back to the premise that men are afraid and it’s a scary time to be a man. Obviously, we have entered into a time when women’s voices hold power that they never held before. And I don’t doubt that this is scary if you are a (white) man. You thought you knew the boundaries and now you are questioning whether the rules have changed or you were wrong in certain situations. You are very fearful of being falsely accused. What if you do everything right and someone accuses you of something you didn’t do? Or something that was entirely innocent on your part? Some may debate this, but let’s call these rational fears and use our two steps to deal with it.

First, let’s talk facts. About 2% of rape accusations are false accusations. This number is generally in line with the false reporting of any crime. Individual studies have shown the rate to be anywhere between 2% and 10%. So even if we take the high number of 10%, 9/10 rape accusations are truthful, which means you have a 1/10 chance of being falsely accused. The odds of you dying of heart disease are a much riskier 1 in 6. Had a cheeseburger lately? But Kristin, you say, not all sexual assault accusations or harassment accusations are rape. I hear you. Because of this, I think we would have to use that generally agreed upon statistic that 2% of crimes are falsely reported — with no reason to believe that sexual assault or harassment are any different.

Are you afraid of someone accusing of you of regular assault? If not, then carry on. If so, maybe talk to someone about that? (The point is that someone can accuse you of any crime in an attempt to ruin you.)

If you take the statistics further, anywhere between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 rape accusations ever lead to a conviction. So even with the low chances of a false accusation, there is little chance that the crime would A) be reported and B) that you would ever be convicted in a court of law. (Also, in a case of “he said, she said,” the tie usually goes to the white male. And you know that.)

So maybe you are fearful, but do the statistics really support your fear? Your therapist says no. Is there a chance this plane is going down? Yes. Is it likely? No.

Second, let’s say the worst case scenario actually happens and you are falsely accused of sexual assault, harassment, rape, or attempted rape. What would happen? It would suck. Yep, that’s a given. But you would get an attorney or an advocate depending on the seriousness of the charges. You would gather your evidence to support your side of the story. And you would fight like hell, right? There are no guarantees in life that something sucky won’t happen. The odds are incredibly in your favor that all will be just fine and you have to know that if something did happen and you are an honest and good person, the truth would come out in the end. Liars’ stories generally don’t hold up for more than 15 minutes. If you are really worried about false accusations, I would suggest you investigate and round up all of the white men in jail falsely accused of sexual assault. My bet is that you will find only black men. (Hence #blacklivesmatter, but we’ll save that for another day.)

So back off the ledge, American (white) men. It’s all OK. You feel out of control because a woman could accuse you of something and people would listen to her. In the past, her voice would be ignored and even actual assault would be ignored. The only thing that has changed in the #metoo climate is that women aren’t hiding their stories and more people are listening to these stories.

If you spend your days afraid of heart disease, something much more likely to happen than false accusation of a crime, you know that there are prescriptions for wellness. Eat a healthy diet. Exercise. See your doctor regularly. Take your cholesterol medication. Similar logic applies here. If, after reading this, you are still afraid of being falsely accused, follow this advice: Don’t touch a woman without her permission. Don’t tell off-color jokes in work situations. Don’t make sexually suggestive statements in work situations. (If you have difficulty with either of these, just count to 10 before you say something and re-evaluate. When in doubt, don’t say it.) If a woman says no in a sexual situation, listen to her. Don’t be creepy. Don’t drink too much alcohol if you do stupid things when you do (it’s not a defense for any crime). Don’t hold someone down without his/her permission. Don’t rape anyone.

But, you say, “My career, my family, my whole existence could be threatened and that’s still terrifying.” And I hear you. That’s a scary thought. This leads me to my third personal strategy with fear and anxiety: assess the current situation “on the ground.” What is happening right now? Everything is OK right now, correct? So take a deep breath and think clearly. You can be fearful or you can turn this all on its head and be grateful that this is happening. Why? Because this national discussion we are having can help us explore what is appropriate sexual behavior and you can change your behavior accordingly in the future! You can choose not to tell that sexually suggestive joke at work tomorrow. You can chose not to pat that woman on the back every time you see her. You can teach your sons things about consent and what constitutes assault. Maybe no one taught you that and that is wrong.

This national conversation is literally giving you “get out of jail free” cards. It is the answer to your fear.

But only if you listen.

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2 thoughts on “Men are afraid

  1. Kay Camplese

    Excellent! Kristin!!! You did an excellent job of addressing this male backlash or whiplash going on today! I remember doing a lot of awareness training sessions with male students and their RA’s on their responsibilities of behavior with women back in the 70’s and 80’s (not just to the women)! Hope it impacted some ..Actually my male colleagues needed it more than the students’! Sad to see for me we still have a long way to go in this journey! Gloria Steinem said in the late 60’s early ‘70’s it would take at least 50 yrs for the feminist movement to really take hold. I didn’t believe her but I should have!!!

  2. Kristin Post author

    It is so true. Unfortunately, Gloria may have even underestimated how much time it would take. Considering we still don’t even have equal pay and are still trying to educate men on what the meaning of the word “no” is , I think it might be another 50 years! And it’s disheartening to hear young girls say they don’t want to be labeled as “feminists.” The only reason they can have an opinion (on that and many other things) and express it loudly for people to hear is because of feminism!

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