Room 4 Debate: Do Black Men Care Enough About Sexual Assault?


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1 in 6 women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape
1 in 6 women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape

In an opinion piece for Ebony magazine, Mychal Denzel Smith writes that rape isn’t just a women’s issue, but far too many men treat it as if it is.

“I recently listened to Nas’ 1999 album I Am — a record I’d considered to be criminally underrated — when the song “Dr. Knockboot” came on and made me rethink my position. Not only is the song an atrociously awkward guide to becoming a “sexpert,” Nas drops this gem: “DON’T: take the pussy, if she fighting/Cause you saw what happened to Tupac and Mike Tyson/’Specially if you large, some hoes is trife/Get you on a rape charge, have you serving your life.”

It was disturbing, not just just content-wise, but for the callousness in his voice. From his tone, the prospect of the rape charge and subsequent punishment was exponentially worse than the rape itself. It calls into question the way we think of rape and what we teach men in particular about sexual violence, ultimately coming down to the idea that women have a right to their bodies only because it’s illegal to take what is rightfully yours. That’s scary.

I’d love to write this off as the thoughts of a singular man, but looking back on events of just the past year or two tell a different story. Whether it was the gang-rape of an 11 year-old girl in Cleveland, Texas, or the alleged assault of Nafissatou Diallo at the hands of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or Too $hort’s “fatherly advice” on XXL’s website that amounted to a step-by-step guide for effective sexual assault, or even the rhetoric of the current “war on women” and the push for mandating transvaginal ultrasounds as a precondition for abortion, the message comes in from every corner of society: women’s bodies don’t belong to them. And with that mentality, why would anyone take sexual assault/violence of women seriously?”

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