The Medical Research Council conducted a survey which asked men whether they forced themselves on women. One in three men said that they did. Sexual violence is rife in South Africa. Many of the state-led sexual violence reduction campaigns are aimed at victims; women, in an effort to prevent rape, while enforcing the idea that the responsibility lies with with the victim.
Why Men Rape is a proposed documentary headed up by Mbali Mthethwa and Roger Young that will interview the perpetrators of the majority of gender-based violence again women; men, from different walks of society, who have raped before, in order to lay bare their unacceptable justifications. In a short interview with Young, we were a delivered a low down on the project which attempts to diffuse power by going to the root cause: men.
The project was launched largely because the conversation around rape in South Africa is generally ‘victim-centric’, for want of a better term. Young believes that the conversation in general needs to be flipped on to men; citing that ‘it should be normal that rape is discusses as something men do, not something that happens to women.’
‘Why Men Rape, being a series of conversations with men guilty of rape, will discuss their world views and the attitudes and incidents that have led these men to thinking that it was okay to commit this violence against women. The point then is for men to see how easily their words and actions give other men permission to rape, and also, through commentary, will illustrate how far off “normal” the thought processes of a rapist are.’
The project started out as the brainchild of Roger Young, who in an effort to crowd-fund the film, came into contact with Mthethwa, a young female director who had tried to start an identical project previously and had come across similar obstacles to Young. He brought on Mthethwa as director, prosing that while it might be easier for Young to conduct the interviews, Mthethwa’s shaping of how those interviews, intercut with interviews with consultants and experts would define the narrative.
‘So, in essence we are both using our strengths, which means in the final analysis that even though I know that these thought processes and world views are wrong, and I am able to get men to express them, the actual framing of how wrong and violent they are should belong to a woman. When I started out, I was going to do this all on my own, as a matter of necessity, I simply couldn’t find anyone who wanted to work on the project with me, so finding Mbali was a total relief.’
The begging question is of course, why give perpetrators a voice? Young explains that he won’t tolerate excuse making, or apologists, imagining that in the course of the interviews – due to the fact that some subjects might be awaiting trial – some subjects might try use the interview process to forward their own agenda. This won’t be tolerated and it won’t be included in the film.
‘We are not here to exonerate, we are only interested in the thinking that leads to the mind set that makes rape men think that rape is permissible. To the extent that this gives rapists a voice, we will do our best to diminish that sense of voice giving with commentary from our consultants. We have to obviously acquiesce that these rapists have some power, or they would not have been able to commit these acts, but it is our hope that the structure of the film will also puncture that power.’
In order to carry out and control these conversations, Young explains that the subject has to feel as if you are empathetic, which is a key reason that this is such a difficult film to make – ‘stare into the abyss and the abyss stares back, and all of that.’ The control of the conversation will largely be introduced in the editing, and in the post interview debrief sessions.
Men-to-men conversation is the first line of attack in combatting rape culture. A huge societal shift is necessary; a change from an existing an attitude that has existed for hundreds of years, generations and generations, which will take a massive shift in approach and consciousness in order for it to manifest in daily life.
‘Can it be dealt with? Yes. Can it be dealt with swiftly? I am not sure, it might take a generation, it might take longer. But we have to start.’
Young has tried a few times to get this going, and have failed to raise funding each time. It’s a project, it’s a paradigm shift in thinking that should have happened a long time ago.
‘Men have to really and very quickly, urgently, realize how much a part of this thing they are, just from the attitudes they hold and the ideas they jokingly espouse.’
So far, the project has undergone preliminary research, with the team currently attempting to raise money to begin through crowd-funding and traditional means of funding support. Promoting the project is extremely difficult due to the sensitivity of the subject matter and it’s triggering nature. Young and his team are hoping to raise the first R40k needed to get the project funded, (somewhat lower than the total amount on the crowd-fund page).
So, if you’re interested to contribute even though it looks like the project will not make the total; get clicking. Visit Why Men Rape‘s crowdfunding page over here to donate to the project and read up more on the vision.