By Jonathan Kalin, founder of Party with Consent
“To be a man, is to be responsible,” – Antoine de Saint Exupery
My father died in a car accident when I was 12 years old. While I was old enough to understand that this spontaneous event would have monumental significance, I was unaware of how much my father’s passing would affect my understanding of masculinity as I grew during my formative teenage years.
As an only child, there was an immediate void of masculine guidance. Masculinity was something I would have to develop an understanding of without a consistent interaction with older men. That said, this did not attribute to a void of love. Experiencing the death of her father at a young age, my mother did everything in her power to teach me how to be a man, while simultaneously being my mother and my father.
We quickly found that certain educational moments between father and son were nearly impossible to duplicate as mother and son.We learned and struggled together as I grew up and grappled with things many take for granted like learning how to shave or how I was supposed to talk to women at school
Still, in her commitment to my development, she taught me more than I could have ever asked for. She showed me that , no matter what happens to you or what predicament you find yourself in, there is something you can do about it. So even if her husband died suddenly, she could still be my support system on her own. And for me, even if statistics show that 71% of high school dropouts grew up in fatherless homes, with my mother as my foundation, I knew I didn’t have to become a statistic.
My respect for my mother grew into a strong respect for all women in the world. When media and peers at prep school consistently portrayed women as objects or lesser than men, I always knew that something wasn’t right because of the strength that my mother portrayed day-in and day-out.
And in that strength, I learned from my mother how to be a man. See, being a man isn’t about shaving. It’s not about making rape jokes. It’s not even about having a dick. It is about accountability. It is about responsibility. And it is about doing our part to leave this world better than how we found it.
I didn’t just magically arrive at this point. It has been a journey and a struggle and it will continue to be. Going into my freshman year of college, I didn’t define myself as a feminist. I didn’t define myself as an activist on gender issues. I actually didn’t even define myself as a man.
Blinded by my male privilege, I typically didn’t notice my gender.
This all changed the winter of my freshman year, when a friend of mine shared with me their story of surviving a sexual assault on campus. At the time, I thought sexual violence was something that happened in a dark alleyway, not at the campus of an elite liberal arts college for the leaders of tomorrow.
That was the catalyst that spurred me to act. I was a part of the inaugural class of Male Athletes Against Violence which is currently the only anti-violence group at my college. Now, I am entering my second year as president of this organization (since re-named Mules Against Violence)
Unfortunately, some people still think that sexual violence is a women’s issue and not one for men to consider. For years, people have been asking women why they got sexually assaulted for years. We are asking the wrong question. We need to stop portraying women as weak. We need to stop “blaming the victim”. We need to start focusing on men,, the perpetrators in 90% of sexual assaults, and considering ‘why did you sexual assault?’ It’s time for men to step up and be responsible.
That’s how my story ends today. Excited to see how it continues tomorrow. And the greatest thing about this movement is – you don’t need an intricate story. All you need to believe is “To be a man, is to be responsible.”
Jonathan Kalin is the President of Mules Against Violence at Colby College and the founder of Party With Consent.