This is The Playbook, Garage’s relationship column for the thoughtful and introspective man by Romeo Moran. Here, he unpacks—or at least, tries to—the vagaries and messes of romantic connections. Be forewarned, though: this ain’t no place for bro-downs.
If there’s anything impressive that humanity achieved in what was otherwise a frustrating and depressing 2017 (an achievement that it seems set to continue in 2018), it’s the large-scale takedown of powerful male figures in the spotlit industries of entertainment, sports, and politics who have been proven to be sexual predators and/or harassers—and with it, taking a clear shot at the patriarchy and rape culture that have allowed this behavior to be embarrassingly normal.
Thanks to the downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose actions are now so well-known that recounting them here would be unnecessary (and unnecessarily triggering), almost every guy is a target.
Anyone who’s in the public eye is on the frontline, but that doesn’t mean the Average Juan isn’t a target, either. Your buddies aren’t exempted, you aren’t exempted, your family isn’t exempted, and I certainly am not exempted.
Yeah, you read that right. If you haven’t taken that long, hard look in the mirror yet and figured out where in your life you’ve gone wrong, maybe it’s time to, before powers greater than you force it into the open and tell you “Time’s Up, bro.” If sexual harassment can happen to anyone (just look up the #MeToo hashtag and see how widespread it is), it then follows that it can be perpetrated by anyone—even by you, even when you’re not realizing it.
I know I certainly haven’t been the best man I can be when it comes to treating women. Yes, I may have checked myself now and learned from all the women (and all the wiser men) I know about how and how not to act around them, but I haven’t been perfect. I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve been forced to look at what I’ve done. I’ve figured out how I’ve lost some friends because of how abusive I never knew I’d been, and I now cringe at what I used to be able to get away with. It’s a painful process, but self-examination is the only way to see how you’ve violated and hurt people.
Man, growing older—and with the times—gives you a lot of perspective. Talk about being young and dumb. Word to Khalid.
And when I think about it, stuff that’s happened to me should have made me realize how bad I could be to other people. If you think #MeToo is solely confined to the experience of women with men, you’re wrong—men get victimized as well.
I’m not here to steal the spotlight away from a gender that’s historically been oppressed, but just remember that a dude can be sexually harassed/assaulted/violated too. If you don’t like the thought of another guy exploring your body without your consent, just imagine how that makes a woman feel.
So what do we do now?
First, if you’ve messed up and you haven’t owned up to it yet, it’s time to apologize. Apologize sincerely, and not because you’re looking to get a reaction that’ll validate you and whatever reputation you may have. If you did something wrong and someone outs you? Do the right thing by acknowledging you screwed up, acknowledge the victim’s pain, and sincerely apologize. And you can only really do that last part if you know how much it hurts. (That means the conditional context of starting an apology with “I’m sorry if I hurt you” is plain bullsh*t. You have to do better than that. – Ed.)
Next is to catch yourself whenever you feel like you’re about to do something inappropriate out of habit, and stop. How would you know? If you’re thinking about doing something pervy, if it’s about to give you a boner, better pass on doing it. Unless, of course, the other person involved is giving you their full consent. How to determine if you have their consent? There’s no simple one-size-fits-all answer. You have to have a conversation with them first, and make it clear that it’s safe for them to be honest with you.
Most important is to take “no” as an answer, even if it’s a reply to something as innocuous as touching someone’s knee in a way that’s neither romantic nor sexual, Liam Neeson. If you’ve got the right to say no to something you don’t want, women (and other men, as the case may be) do too. We all have the right to our respective personal spaces, and everyone’s got the right to have agency over their bodies, Catherine Deneuve.
And then don’t forget to call your friends out whenever they’re saying or doing anything abusive or predatory. Tell them it’s not cool—and if they’re not cool with that, maybe you shouldn’t really be friends to begin with.
The real name of the game here is respect, and the whole reason for this reckoning is because there isn’t enough of it to go around. Now, if you’re good, don’t make it about you and how you didn’t do anything wrong. Lend your voice to victims instead.
If you’re guilty, start making up for it, man, or else you’ll be left behind. The only thing that’ll be coming for you then is karma.
Writer: Romeo Moran
Header art by Inggo Manalo