Redefining accountability: On the reasons for renaming Men for Consent

Men for Consent (MFC) was started fewer than 10 years ago as a club exclusively for men to help combat rape culture and sexual violence. The club has come a long way since then; it began as an exclusively male, application-based club and now is open to all genders. Past iterations of MFC have rightfully been criticized for their complacency and for holding a transphobic and heteronormative definition of masculinity. The club has also been critiqued for engaging in misguided, narrow and ineffective preventative work. These criticisms were often spot-on, and this is not and has never been acceptable.

That being said, the current members of the club’s board have recognized these problems and have engaged in work over the past few months to make some necessary changes. This work began by establishing connections with other groups on campus, as MFC’s isolation has been detrimental to the club’s goals. We have also separated board and discussion meetings and made those discussion meetings open to all students. However, MFC has not just made structural changes. Rather than continuing to work within a problematic men’s-violence-against-women framework, we have begun to focus on toxic masculinity as a root cause of sexual violence. This has meant rethinking our definitions of masculinity, consent and hook-up culture in order to make them more intersectional and trans-inclusive.

But this is still not enough. We need to have a clear vision of what the club can and should be. As we think more about the kind of framework we want to operate within, we cannot forget about the privileges that men have in sexual violence prevention work. Borrowing heavily from a racial justice and feminist framework, we believe that it’s important for men to do the physical and emotional labor of talking to other men about toxic masculinity and sexual violence. It is also important for men to engage in restorative justice work in order to ensure that perpetrators change their behavior. As a group, we are committed to leveraging male privilege to deconstruct toxic masculinity and other root causes of sexual violence on campus. In general, we believe that men must ask themselves: how can we leverage our privilege to deconstruct the systems that give us that privilege in the first place?

In order to signal this shift in mindset and priorities, MFC is changing its name. After multiple discussions and an open forum to discuss the name change, we have decided to change our name to MASC, which stands for Masculinity, Accountability, Sexual violence and Consent. We hope that MASC will provide an accessible, accountable space as we continue to work towards ending sexual violence through prevention-based efforts.

Our name change is an acknowledgment that organizations that present themselves as exclusively male cannot productively work against sexual violence. In fact, they recreate the very hierarchies that enact violence in the first place. MASC must be an organization that is accountable, not just to survivors of sexual violence, but to queer people, people of color, trans and non-binary people and the community at large. To clarify, we are not asking people to engage in the emotional labor of “teaching” their own lived experiences to MASC. Rather, we are redefining ourselves as an accessible, accountable club that engages in preventative work against sexual violence. While the privileges afforded to men should mean that men bear the burden of deconstructing toxic masculinity, the group that makes those decisions cannot and should not be exclusively male.

We hope that you’ll consider joining us in defining and enacting the values of MASC. For too long, MFC has not lived up to the needs of our community, and we believe that this is a good step towards beginning to live up to those needs.

Ben Metrikin ’18 is an English major from New York, N.Y. He lives in Mills. Morris Kolman ’18 is a political science major from New York, N.Y. He lives in Prospect.