What Men Can Do To Support Zerlina Maxwell (Part II)

By Joe Samalin, MasculinityU Contributor


(Read Part I of this piece here)

In continuation of my post yesterday, I want to share another very important reason we as (white) male feminists need to join this particular conversation from Zerlina Maxwell’s appearance on Fox News and how we can: the idea that women are somehow responsible for preventing rape against them.

This is just patriarchal bullshit.

Even this past weekend (Sunday, March 16, 2013) on Melissa Harris Perry’s TV show #nerdland I watched how the conversation was centering on rape prevention being the same as risk reduction. They are not. As many women have been saying for a long time: Prevention is different from risk reduction. Period.

While they are both key pieces of addressing violence, they are decidedly not the same thing. And yet they are purported by society to be just that. As a society, when it comes to addressing rape, we overwhelmingly rely on and focus on one thing and only one thing, risk reduction. And we think of it, refer to it, and present it as prevention.


It is a nuanced point sexual violence educators speak to often, but it needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

If we say the burden of preventing rape falls solely (or at all) on the shoulders of potential victims (of any gender or sexual orientation) then here is the mathematical equation we are supporting:

Preventing rape = victim’s job.


If, god forbid, a woman is raped (every two minutes in the US)


It is (at least to some degree) her fault


Because she didn’t do her job! (Protecting herself and preventing her rape).

Sit with that for a second. This is the logic behind seeing risk reduction as prevention. We don’t say it out loud, but then again, we really kinda do. All the time.  And at the root of it is sexism and patriarchy letting us as men off the hook for any responsibility of holding ourselves and each other accountable for our words and actions that support rape. And that’s why it our responsibility to speak out as men.

Why did she go to his room with him? Why was she dressed like that? Why did she drink so much? Look how she was dancing. What did she expect? She should have known better.

This is what victims and survivors of rape hear all the time. It is called victim-blaming. They hear it from their friends. Their family. Their classmates. The police. That their rape was somehow their punishment for not doing enough to prevent it. For being unsafe. For being promiscuous.

For not carrying a gun.

It pains us to have to say it, but we as men have a responsibility to, again and again and again and again until it sinks in and things really begin to change…


A rapist is.

This is why we, men and women of all races, need to raise our voices to change the discourse around rape – why some men rape and what all men can and should do about it. This discourse is part of how patriarchy continues to remain pervasive, what allows attacks like those on Zerlina to continue unabated, and stops scores of survivors of rape (men too) from coming forward to get the help they need. And it stops us all from holding rapists accountable. Speaking out on this issue does not mean we think that all or even most of us as men are rapists, but that we recognize we all have a stake in ending sexual violence, and that we refuse to let men who choose to commit rape continue to do so. We will raise our voice and do our part.

We can start to shift the culture, and here are some ways how:

  • Learn the difference between risk reduction and prevention, and call it out when people are getting them all mixed up…

  • Like and share the We Support Zerlina Maxwell facebook page!
  • Contact and support organizations like Men Can Stop Rape that helps communities to engage men and boys to prevent gender-based violence. Discover the incredible work that A Long Walk Home does to creatively and powerfully support survivors of violence and prevent it from happening in the first place. Support Black Women’s Blueprint and their work addressing sexual violence and connecting violence against women to the larger context of civil and human rights.

  • Read this. And this. And watch this.

Let us know what you do, and let us know other ways we can help men get the word out. If you have any questions feel free to contact us as well!

Sincerely and in brotherhood,

Joe Samalin, with input from Bix Gabriel


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