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"Not All Men" is a Dangerous Distraction

Comedian Dave Chappelle had just performed a particularly successful show one night, and was paid 25,000 dollars in cash following his performance. He immediately began his journey back to Brooklyn around 1 am with his earnings in his backpack. He recalled never having feared for his life as much as he did in that moment. He had never possessed something that everyone around him wanted.

He recounted to the audience,

"Then I thought: 'Holy s**t, what if I had a p***y on me all the time?"

For the first time, he understood what it was like to be a woman.

To be targeted, hunted, harassed, beaten-to be looked down on yet expected to please.

According to BJS Intern Sofi Sinovich and Ph.D, BJS Statistician Lynn Langton 2014 study, "Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College Age Females, 1995-2013," about 80% of rape and sexual assault cases occur with someone the victim knew.

According to the Texas Statewide Sexual Assault Study, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape at some point in her lifetime, with a sexual assault occurring in America every 98 seconds (2015).

Women live in a world in which they are constantly preyed upon, yet expected to be responsible for the prevention of any such instance. You've probably heard poorly veiled accusations like, "well, what was she wearing?" or "then she shouldn't have been there in the first place" from media or reality by now. The idea that girls mature faster than boys is never applied when discussing a women's qualifications for a promotion or emotional maturity in times of crisis, but rather only as a justification for men's behavior. It's not that women are taken seriously because they are more mature, but rather they are expected to compensate for the space that the "boys will be boys" and "she was asking for it" mentality leaves for continued misogyny. Violence against women is its own global epidemic. Even so, among the horror stories of women who turn down a date and are harassed, threatened, abducted, or even murdered are counter arguments of "not all men." This is unsurprising. What person wouldn't want to defend themselves when their identified group is under fire? Allow me to put the issue of violence and sexual harassment against women into perspective.

Imagine a game of Russian Roulette. One person in a line up of strangers has the ability and the advantage to kill you. You have no idea who. Every candidate is just as capable of doing so, and there are no specific qualifications for the shooter. If you didn't know who among them was the one who would hurt you, would you not exercise caution with them all?

Of course not all men are sexual predators or abusers. But hopefully you can see that enough are to warrant a pre-emptive caution. Women are conditioned from birth that they are the hunted, and instead of addressing the hunters, it is often those same women who are made responsible for the unsolicited attention. Imagine growing up being told to cover your shoulders in order to stop a boy from losing his self-control. Imagine having to carry a makeshift weapon on you at all times in order to walk from the grocery store back to your car. Imagine being violated, dehumanized, and abandoned, and being told that you deserved it because your dress was too short. In an animalistic way, women are treated like prey, but are also expected to accommodate the predator.

So wherein lies the issue with the phrase, "not all men?"

Complacency. Condonement through inaction. When men come to the defense of other men instead of the women who are calling out for change, it sends the message that the priority lies in protecting the ego. If it doesn't apply to you, if your actions don't immediately nullify any possible association you might have to these allegations, then it wouldn't affect you. Is your priority to listen, or is it to respond?

I think any person with a morsel of sense knows good and well that not all men are assaulters, not all men are predators, not all men are perverts, not all men are rapists. If a group of lions were to be unleashed on civilians and began maiming and attacking people, how tone deaf would the assertion that, "well not all lions kill" feel to you? You'd wonder why that mattered in this situation, and why the concern wasn't placed on finding a solution, on helping those who were hurting, and protecting those becoming prey to the predators instead.

In the same way, the mentality of "not all men" is a dangerous distraction from the issue at hand. Maybe not all men are, but enough are to be worried. To start wondering, "why is this happening and what can I do to help?" To start asking the hard, uncomfortable questions, and listening to the wounded and the silenced.


Texas Statewide Sexual Assault Prevalence Study. (2016). Retrieved February 20, 2021, from

Sofi Sinovich, BJS Intern, and Ph.D., BJS Statistician Lynn Langton. "Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College Age Females, 1995-2013." Published by the U.S. Department of Justice. December 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2021. NCJ 248471

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