It’s time to consider a curfew for men

Crowds of people outside Cologne Main Station in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. Photo: EPA (via The Telegraph)

You’ve had your chance, bepenised ones. And you’ve blown it. What you’ve proven, time and time again, is that you cannot be trusted to behave yourselves after dark. In Germany, about 1000 men are reported to have arrived to the Cologne Cathedral area on New Years Eve, intending to sexually assault and mug as many women as possible. The CBC reports, “Some 121 women are reported to have been robbed, threatened, or sexually molested there by gangs of mostly drunk men between 18 and 35 years old while out celebrating.” Similar attacks took place in Hamburg and Stuttgart as well. One victim told N-TV in Germany:

“At around 11pm we were at the main train station and wanted to travel on to see the fireworks, and that was when we first noticed all these men standing around. We managed to go into the cathedral and wanted to go past the Museum Ludwig to join everyone and watch the fireworks by the river, but suddenly we were surrounded by a group of between 20 and 30 men.

They were full of anger, and we had to make sure that none of us were pulled away by them. They were groping us and we were trying to get away as quickly as possible.”

Another victim, named only as Katja L, told Der Express:

“I was groped everywhere. It was a nightmare. Although we shouted and beat them, the guys did not stop. I was desperate and think I was touched around 100 times in the 200 meters. Fortunately I wore a jacket and trousers. A skirt would probably have been torn away from me.”

After a series of assaults on campus at UBC, “the general public” (let’s call them “women,” why don’t we) were warned to “remain extra vigilant of their surroundings and take every precaution to enhance their personal safety” when walking alone at night or, alternatively, have a campus escort accompany them to their destination.

Similarly, after the attacks in Germany, the Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, suggested keeping “a certain distance of more than an arm’s length” from unknown men and told women that, “they should go out and have fun, but they need to be better prepared, especially with the Cologne carnival coming up.” She went on to say that there will be “online guidelines that these young women can read through to prepare themselves.”

Female students are under constant threat on college campuses — afraid to walk home at night, raped at parties, after the bar, and in their dorms. Despite the fact that male violence can and does happen at all hours, it is at night — walking to their cars, clutching their keys as they travel from the bus stop to their front doors, lying awake at night wondering what that sound is outside their windows, as well as during drunken celebrations like on New Years Eve or simply while out on Friday night — when women often feel most fearful of attack.

There are solutions: a feminist revolution; real consequences for men who rape, harass, and abuse women; ensuring women are financially independent and that they are able to leave abusers safely; a cultural shift that addresses male entitlement, porn culture, and the objectifying male gaze; an end to masculinity and, more broadly, gendered socialization that says men are actors whereas women are passive recipients of men’s “action” — that is, the idea that men are to “get” sex from women, which positions coercion as a normal and expected part of heterosexual relations… All of that. All of that would help. But while we’re working on that (with little help even from liberal feminists who claim a desire to end to rape culture, something they mysteriously separate from all the rest of that stuff), what are women to do? How long will it take for generations of men to shed the deeply ingrained notion that women’s bodies are for them and that sex is one of their natural born rights as men? Particularly when progressive and even other so-called “feminists” are fighting tooth and nail to ensure men continue to believe sex is a right, not a privilege?

In the meantime, women live in fear. We are attacked by large groups of drunk, aggressive men while ringing in the New Year. We double lock all our doors and windows but still can’t sleep at night. We fear those who drive us home at night. In the meantime, we are not safe and men — most men — are given free reign to behave however they wish, as most men who rape, harass, and abuse are not punished.

While, yes, men are violent during the day and while, yes, a curfew would not resolve the problem of patriarchy and male violence against women, it does, in a way, address entitlement and privilege. While, in some ways, my argument here began facetiously, the more I consider the idea of a curfew for men, the more it makes sense. Why should men, if they have proven time and time again that they cannot — will not — leave women alone, stop harassing, raping, drugging, stalking, catcalling, groping, flashing, be permitted to move about freely in this world? We — women — are the ones who suffer and who feel afraid.

And who is it we fear? Is it other women? Is it ghosts (Ok, yes, sometimes, if you are me, it is ghosts — but only while sleeping in large, old, creaky houses)? Is it a genderless, faceless, bodiless being? No. It is a male. A male with a penis that he may or may not use as a weapon.

“What real impact would a curfew have?” you might ask. Certainly it would send the message that we are taking men’s behaviour seriously and that it is no longer acceptable. Certainly it would allow women to move about more safely at night — on campus, in their homes, at bars, at the bus stop. Certainly it would name the problem. It would say, unequivocally, “The problem is you, men. You are the problem, and therefore, it is you who must be stopped.”

Think of it as a mass grounding for men. After a designated period of time, we’ll allow them back on the streets after dark to see how it goes. If the sexual assaults and harassment continue, well, it’s back to the curfew.

I mean, really, they asked for it.

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.