Cosby Trial Reveals What I Have Been Trying to Tell Boys About Biases Against Men

I believe that men have important roles in working for a day without sexual violence and I have had the great opportunity to discuss my belief with many young men as I speak with schools and community organizations throughout the country.  Young men almost always share my desire to discuss.  They generally have a lot to say on the subject and find it to be relevant to their lives.  They also almost always raise fears that the odds are stacked against them.  One of them will almost always claim that juries always believe “the woman” when men are accused of sexual violence.  One of them will echo how the media and public also rally against men without any knowledge of the facts.  One of them will almost always talk about how a man’s life is ruined by a mere accusation.  And many of his peers quite often nod their heads in agreement.

Young men generally express anger and worry about fairness.  As a man, I certainly identify with concerns about whether or not I would truly be innocent until proven guilty if accused of something but I don’t believe that the state of the world is as one-sided as young men claim.  The consistency with which I hear young men discuss their fears about bias against men in heterosexual encounters ironically suggests that the bias is not quite so sweeping.  If boys routinely express belief in a societal bias against them, then it cannot be as universal as they fear.  So many of them clearly hold biases that swing against women and alleged victims in pushing for fairness.

It’s understandable why men typically speak to fears that reflect their perspectives but listening to the perspectives of others led me to a different place.  I’ve met plenty of women who have shared fears that they would not be taken seriously if they came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.  Most of them never did so and some of them did only to see their fears realized.  I now believe that folks that hold biases against women sit on juries, talk at water coolers, and write for media outlets just the same as those folks who stoke the fears of young men.  We certainly saw this bear out in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial where some jury members revealed some interesting things that factored into their decisions if media accounts are to be believed.  At least one juror reportedly saw the alleged victim’s delays in reporting, her dress, her demeanor in court, and her prior relationship to Cosby among other things as completely relevant to the question of whether or not Cosby engaged in a non-consensual act.

All I’m saying is that one can pull together anecdotes and theories to make a convincing case about bias against men (and alleged perpetrators) as well as against women (and alleged victims).  There is no need to pick a side and insist that everything we see fits neatly into our side’s worldview.  There’s a certain freedom that comes with this realization that we are not required to sit entirely on one team.  It’s always a joy to listen to young men come to this realization as I did.

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