Toxic Masculinity Incubated R.Kelly and We As Men Are Complicit

I was raised as a black male in Southside Richmond. As a teenager I was taught by my peers that if I was a virgin there was something wrong with me. Manhood was equated to being sexually active. The more sex you had the more of a man you were. As a result, many of my peers early interactions with girls were in pursuit of sex. My peer group treated girls as sex objects.

I am sure the idea of “having game” was equated with how well you could manipulate a girl to have sex with you. If you were still a virgin you were seen as being lame, wack and not having no game. This toxic perspective on male female relationships I am sure led to many women being emotionally coerced and “talked” into sexual relations with boys who did not care about them sincerely. Early in our teenage years we were taught to lie to girls, tell them how much we loved them, we would be together forever, all of these embellishments in order to get sexual gratification. Many of my peer group were latch key kids. After school and skipping school provided many opportunities to explore urges and do things that our parents knew nothing about.

The idea that the girls in the R.Kelly incidents were at fault in any way is so disgusting because you have a grown man – manipulating girls like we were taught to do as boys. What we were taught was and is toxic and had to be unlearned. We weren’t surrounded by healthy Male examples who demonstrated and explained that manhood was not equated to how sexually active you were. This is not an excuse for the manipulation and toxicity that was experienced by the girls who encountered us. I apologize for us because it was wrong and I know women who weren’t sexually assaulted but were emotionally damaged by boys who lied to them to get them to let their guard down so they could have a sexual experience. I know boys who still practice that as older males. I see elements of that behavior manifesting itself in people commenting and blaming the girls and it’s crazy because it speaks to the culture of rape, objectification and misogyny that girls have to grow up and navigate thru and then survive as women within.

As men, R.Kelly is all our fault. Yes. We live in a white supremacist society that locks us up first. We live under a government that pumped crack in our community. Both of those combined realities plus the myriad of other intersectionalities literally snatched generations of black men from our community in mass. Despite all that, we dance to R.Kelly music. Many of us played the songs and whispered sweet nothings in the ears of girls when we were teens and were straight running game trying to get some.

This pathologic behavior is part of what they call toxic masculinity. We all ain’t fall into the gradient and become predators of under age girls but if you ever lied or even embellished how you felt about a girl so you could get her to have sex no matter how old you were, you were/are wrong too. We gotta do better.

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