The world of manhood has a deep divide running throught it. Most contemporary men, and most teenage boys thankfully, are caring and ethical. They like and value the women in their lives, and treat them with empathy and respect. They are comfortable around women and negotiate sexuality as a happy and equal dance.
But co-existing with this, and present all around us, is a dark shadow masculinity. Dangerous and predatory men still abound in our culture, in sufficient numbers to make it grimly unsafe to be a girl or a woman. We have seen this in politics, the church, sport, healthcare, aged care, schools, and simply out on the streets.
The account of a young woman being raped in Parliament House brought the topic back yet again. Followed quickly by the hundreds of Sydney schoolgirls who came forward to talk about sexual assaults as young as their early teens in response to a petition circulated by Chanel Contos, a former Kambala student. Last year it was the chanting of St Kevin’s School boys of aggressively sexual songs on a public tram. And every year, the sexually motivated murders that haunt us all.
We can’t solve this by exhortation, or finger wagging. We have to ask what practical and evidence-based methods – in our families, in schools – can change this terrible state of affairs.