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In an era of #MeToo, what about #MenToo? 

Here are two snapshots showing the roles men and woman play in sexuality.

#MenToo

One is from the present: An estimated 300 students walked out of classes in front of Arlington High School on Oct. 12, to advocate for better education about consent.

Consent about what? About sex, about no meaning no. About what sex means -- and that a lack of understanding leads to abuse.

The eight-minute consciousness-raising visibility on a Friday morning came about through the efforts of the Young Feminist Alliance and the Young Progressives at the school.

The walkout began with 98 seconds of silence. Young Feminists Alliance co-president Izzy O’Hagan noted that a person is sexually assaulted in the United States every 98 seconds.

“Every eight minutes, one of these victims is a teen or child,” O’Hagan said. “One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18 years old.”

The event came a week after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Hearings leading to a narrow vote to confirm were marked by stunning testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, who said Kavanaugh and one of his friends had abused her in 1982, when all were in high school.

Her screams of "no" were muffled by Kavanaugh's hand, she told a Senate committee. Democrats felt her pain; Republican's ignored it.

Consent in Kavanaugh era

Ina Aramandla of the feminist alliance and Young Progressives' president Griffin Gould told YourArlington that student focus was not the Kavanaugh confirmation. "Our main goal was actually to advocate for better consent education across Massachusetts and the country," she wrote Oct. 14 in an email. "We were trying to start a conversation on how to change the culture we have today surrounding sexual misconduct."

The AHS students leaders made clear they were not paid. Trump supporters have characterized protesters backing Christine Blasey Ford, without evidence, as a "paid mob." "Everyone that attended was there of their own accord," Aramandla wrote.

At the visibility, O’Hagan read a list of points to help students be aware of how to avoid sexually assault -- walking in a group, avoiding eye contact with men on the street and parking in well-lit areas.

Past is never really past

This local cri de coeur -- heartfelt and needed now -- spun my mind back decades, when teens stayed silent about sex, when I had my own #metoo experience.

It was a time of Bill Haley and the Comets rocking around the clock, of Chuck Berry flying down the highway in Maybelline. I staying at my grandparents' farm in western Pennsylvania, where my family would spend summers in the 1950s no matter where we lived the rest of the year.

Summers on that farm perched amid steep hills convey a range of images -- from bucolic to unnerving. I carried the source of the family income, rich milk from a 100-Guernsey herd. At suppers, all endured family sarcasm masking as humor.

In the fields, my two blond uncles, muscles blazing in the sun, seemed like gods to me then as they effortlessly hefted the bales to the bed of old Ford truck. At night, in the 1811 farmhouse, I'd slip into the room where one of my uncles had lived before he married too young and try on his left-behind football helmet and shoulder pads. In that football-made region, I imagined making his game-winning high school catch.

Still a hero to me when I was 12, the uncle asked me after milking one late afternoon to come along with him to the barn's hay mow.

There, without my consent, the uncle, who would later work as a machinist fashioning missiles, abused me.

The details do not matter. The secret missile man had launched a painful family secret, which I share with you now.

The event has affected the rest of my life.

How? Youthful confusion about my sexuality as well as an early attraction to feminism. And a clear understanding about consent.

Female liberation frees us all, no matter the gender.

Men, too. 


This opinion was republished Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.

Town of Arlington to LGBTQIA+ students: You belong
 

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