• SumoMe

What are the effects of treating all males as potential predators?

Imagine that you’re out watching your child play at a park. You see a man with a child walk over to the swings and start pushing the kid on the swings he came with. Your child sees this, and runs over and asks the man to push him on the swings, too. Decision time: do you continue to watch and let the unknown man push your kid on the swing? Do you intervene and push your child yourself? Or do you rush over and whisk your child away and chide him for talking to that strange man?

I assert that most parents choose the third option. Not only that, but many parents instill a fear in their children of unknown people. This fear also pours over into the so-called strangers themselves, who often avoid children at all costs for fear of getting labeled a molester or general creeper.

Take, for example, the 2006 BBC News story about the story of a bricklayer who spotted a toddler at the side of the road. As he later testified at a hearing, he didn’t stop to help for fear he’d be accused of trying to abduct her. You know: a man driving around with a little girl in his car? She ended up at a pond and drowned.

There are no shortages of sad or depressing stories about the effect of the stranger danger mentality.  Timothy Murray, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, saved some children from a burning car on the side of the road and was nearly punched in the face in the process of doing so by the grandmother. According to Murray:

“She told me ‘I didn’t know if you were trying to take the kids or take the car. I was about to punch you,’” Mr. Murray recalled the unidentified grandmother saying after firefighters arrived to extinguish the left front tire on her van.

A Wall Street Journal article mentioned an Iowa daycare’s policy of making men leave the room during the act of changing a diaper, as well as some other anecdotes:

A friend of mine, Eric Kozak, was working for a while as a courier. Driving around an unfamiliar neighborhood, he says, “I got lost. I saw a couple kids by the side of the road and rolled down my window to ask, ‘Where is such-and-such road?’ They ran off screaming.”

Another dad told me about taking his three-year-old to play football in the local park, where he’d help organize the slightly older kids into a game. Over time, one of the kids started to look up to him. “He wanted to stand close to me, wanted approval, Dad stuff, I guess. And because of this whole ‘stranger danger’ mentality, I could sense this sort of wary disapproval from the few other parents at the playground. So I just stopped going.”

Reading the comments of some of these articles will reveal at least another hundred examples of this male-oriented pedophilia fear. The next natural question is why? Why is society so afraid of males? What can we do about it?

To help answer the first question, let’s look at some statistics. As of April 2012, the Bureau of Prisons established that 10,477 people are in jail for sex offenses, out of a total U.S. adult male population (19 years of age or older) of about 109,188,733 people. In addition, 90% of all reported sexual assaults are committed by men. 90% of 10,477 total sex offenders is 9,429. That means that only 9,429 men out of 109,188,733 adult U.S. men are likely to sexually assault your child (that comes out to 0.0086%).

Despite these statistics, most people don’t live their lives based on probability alone. If that were the case, far fewer people would drive cars given the high probability of automobile accidents. Most people live their lives based on the specific situation–“I’m not scared of 0.0086% of men, but just that particular man talking to my children,” whether or not this fear is justified. Additionally, parents are naturally protective of their children, and sexual assault is a serious issue. If someone said to you, “There’s a 0.0086% chance your child will be sexually assaulted if you go to the park,” would you take that chance? So where does the fear come from? Why, despite the low probability of a man being a child molester, does society as a whole fear the worst first?

This is a two-way street. Both men and women are to blame for this problem. Men: we need to stop giving people a reason to fear us from the start. Stop dressing and speaking like a thug. Respect yourself and you will find respect from others in return. Maybe if we clean up our act as a whole, we can reverse this trend. On the other side of the coin, women need to work on not fearing the worst and externalizing that fear onto others. This, however, is unlikely to occur until the men do their part first. Women indeed are systematically abused, mistreated, and belittled by men, and once they become a mother this doesn’t simply vanish. Because I’m unable to give a woman’s point of view myself, I will drop this and save it for another day.

The fear of men is largely our own doing, and the respect of men comes the same way. You’d be surprised how far looking nice, being nice, and respecting others around you will get you in life. See a child on the side of the road, and want to help her but for your fear of being accused of kidnapping? How about you don’t kidnap her and call the police or get help. Getting disapproving comments from other parents at the park for organizing football games? How about you ask the parents if they want their kid to play, or if the parents want to help organize the game as well.

Inclusion is the key here. If you include others in your own public acts–finding help for lost kids or finding help to organize a game–people are far less likely to assume the worst about what you’re doing. They know what you’re doing. There’s no need to assume anything. I can hear some of you now: “Why should I have to let the world know what I’m doing, if I’m innocently playing with my niece or daughter at the park?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should come to a park with a megaphone and say “Attention park visitors. This is my daughter. Here is her birth certificate.” After all, you don’t have to walk into a bank and say, “Attention. I’m a customer, not a bank robber.” Requiring this only makes the problem worse, not better.

What I’m getting at is this: don’t shut yourself off, or act in a manner that makes people think you’re in the 0.0086%. You don’t need to need to play with all the kids and parents at the park, especially if you just want to be alone with your kid. But, if the opportunity arises, or she wants to play with another kid, don’t stay in the shadows and make people concerned. In addition, don’t drive up in a van and start handing out candy to all the kids. This isn’t a “blame the victim” situation because you aren’t the victim here, the abused children are. You shouldn’t walk in a bank in a ski mask to make a deposit, and you shouldn’t go to a park and hand out candy to children to make them happy. It’s entirely possible that you just came from the slopes and you forgot to take your ski mask off, and its entirely possible that you came across a large box of candy and need to unload it on some people. However, you can’t justifiably be upset when someone thinks you’re trying to rob the bank or lure children, because those are acts that bank robbers and child molesters do when they want to rob banks or molest children.

That being said, there indeed are instances where men do non-threatening things and are still accused/suspected of shadiness–like saving a family from a burning car or changing a diaper. This is not proof of oppression, but is rather proof of how deep-seeded the fear is in women, particularly. The appropriate response to wholly outrageous and unfounded allegations of potential creepiness is the same as before: be the better person and show your cards. Instead of crying out, “oppression!”, make it a point to make the alleging party think, “Oh, his intentions were pure, and I assumed the worst. Maybe I should work on that.”

This is something everyone needs to work on. If men stop sexually assaulting people, the fear of sexual assault will die off. If women stop assuming the worst, men will have the opportunity to explain their actions without overcoming the burden of an unfounded allegation. Couple these together and we get successful coexistence. Easier said than done, perhaps?

What do you think? Have you ever been involved in a situation where someone assumed you were up to no good because you’re a male? Let’s hear from the women too–how can you articulate this fear the worst first mentality? Let’s solve this problem in the comments below.