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life, Masculinity, Op-Ed, Privilege, rape culture, society, women's issues

An Open Letter to Don’t-Be-That-Guy Guy

The other day a woman I know posted about narrowly escaping being snatched off the street by a man who intended her harm. The vast majority of comments were what a decent person would expect, things along the line of “OMG I hope you are okay” and “Did you report it?” and “WTF?!?” You know, the kinds of things you say when someone you know tells you they were almost kidnapped and raped and who the fuck knows what else.

Your contribution?

“Would it have been a hot rape at least? Was the guy good looking, or short, fat, and ugly?”

You excused it as gallows humor. You were “trying to make light of [her] horrible situation.” You “meant absolutely no harm.” You told the original poster — the woman, I’ll remind you, writing about almost being kidnapped, raped, and who knows what else — “You obviously don’t like my crude gallows humor. And for that I apologize” which is about the weaselly-est non-apology I’ve ever read.

Then you blocked her, because despite making a show of how little the dogpile of her actual friends calling your sorry ass out affected you, it was clear that it did. So you took the coward’s way out. Because in addition to being a shit-heel of the lowest order, you aren’t man enough to face the consequences of your shitty action, just like you weren’t man enough to make a real apology.

Just like you weren’t man enough to take what happened to my friend seriously in the first place.

Yesterday, I was mad enough to out you. I wanted to hit you back for hurting my friend. And you did hurt her. Sticks and stones aside, your words sent her into a world of pain, which fucking happens to survivors when dickheads like you think it’s edgy and fun to make rape jokes. Her local friends spent the day circling around her and making sure she was okay, because in her subjective experience? Your rape joke was pretty much the same as you actually raping her.

Let that sink in, if you’re capable of it.

A lot of my friends said I should out you. “Burn his social media to the ground,” someone said. I was sorely tempted. Heaven knows you deserve it.

But I didn’t, and I’m not going to.

There are a few reasons for that. First and foremost, my friend’s had a rough enough go of things. She’s a survivor of abuse that would leave the likes of you quaking in a puddle of your own tears and piss. The last thing she needs is a bunch of assholes like you piling on and adding to her grief. Which we all know would happen, because the internet’s full of assholes like you, who love nothing more than to share their deep and abiding misery with the world.

Even weren’t that the case, a few of us did some research. Frankly, we couldn’t think of anything we could do that would make your life any more miserable and pathetic than it already is. Believe me, we tried.

It made me angry, honestly. That we couldn’t hit you back in a meaningful way without crossing lines none of us wanted to cross.

But then I realized. You — you as a specific, deeply shitty person — don’t matter. You don’t count enough to be worth hitting back. In fact, your only value is as just one more example of an all-too-prevalent type: the mediocre neckbeard who’s been so insulated by privilege from consequence that the notion of reflecting a moment between impulse and action is not only alien to you but strikes you as an attack on the fundamental ordering of the world. The kind of guy who thinks a woman who was almost SNATCHED OFF THE FUCKING STREET just needs a lol to shake it off, and a rape joke is just the thing to make that happen. The kind of guy who thinks he is the victim when the joke falls flat and people start calling him out. The kind of guy whose apology puts the onus on the woman WHO WAS ALMOST KIDNAPPED AND RAPED for not appreciating your sense of humor.

So, yeah, I’m talking to you. But I’m also talking to anyone who recognizes themselves in your actions. I’m talking to all the guys out there who think rape jokes are funny, or that they shouldn’t suffer consequences when they say or do shitty things, or that people who aren’t like them aren’t people, deserving of dignity and kindness and respect.

Don’t be that guy. If you are that guy, stop. If you know that guy, tell him to stop or cut him the fuck out of your world. If you see that guy being that guy, call him out.

The world is changing. The seal is broken, and the pendulum ain’t swinging back. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing, and centuries if not millenia overdue.

But even if you can’t get behind it because it’s the right thing to do, do it for your own sake. And I don’t mean fake it because you don’t want to be up against the wall now the revolution has come. I don’t even mean you should man up because the bill’s come due and it’s time to pay your share (though it absolutely is).

Do it because it’s in your interest to grow as a person, to take stock of yourself and to see where you’re wanting, and to address your sins and shortcomings so you can be a healthy, authentic, fully-realized person who makes positive contributions to the lives of the people around you and leaves the world a better place than you found it. Do it because the work it takes to do it will help fill the yawning void inside that makes you miserable and uncaring enough that you choose to do and say shitty things so that other people will be miserable, too. Do it because though it’s painful, and hard, it’s the only way to live a life in which happiness and meaning can dwell.

It’s time to human up. For everyone’s sake, including your own.

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About Dallas Taylor

Dallas Taylor is the grandson of a rum-runner, a valedictorian, a handyman, and a good Catholic girl. He lives and writes in Seattle, and builds things for a living in his spare time. In 2010, he attended the Clarion Writers’ Workshop.

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