Unexamined Male Privilege in the Atheist Movement – Part III

This final blog post is anecdotal but it may be useful for folks who don’t understand the different social and cultural contexts that men and women bring to social interaction.

Since 1999, I have facilitated workshop for training adults to lead human sexuality workshops with age-appropriate content for children, adolescents, and adults as part of the “Our Whole Lives” curriculum series jointly developed in partnership with secular public health agencies (Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, etc) and two church denominations (Unitarian Universalist Association and United Church of Christ).

One of the activities that we do in the training workshop for adults who will be teaching other adults is a lifespan timeline activity where folks talk about where significant sexual events will happen in the lifespan (using a roughly 6 foot or 2 meter long strip of paper marked off into decade increments from prenatal/age 0 to the 90th decade).

The participants are divided into male and female groups for this activity (in light of what we know about transgender issues and gender identity, this may be a problem but this male-female aspect brings out an important facet of male privilege).

Both groups are given a black marker to record voluntary events subject to individual control and a red marker to record involuntary events not subject to individual control.  The male group does a timeline of male sexual development and the female group does a timeline of female sexual development.

I have done this activity for many times over the past decade with groups in secular and religious settings in New England, Texas, and Nevada.

I have always seen the female group record the “first sexual intercourse” event with both red and black colors (the event can be voluntary or involuntary). Women are aware that the first intercourse experience may not a voluntary choice in a women’s life.

I have always seen the male group record the “first sexual intercourse” event with just the black color reflecting an individual choice. Apparently, men may be less aware that intercourse can be forced and may not think it can happen to a man.

This may explain why some women and some men view the “Elevator Guy” coffee invitation differently.

PS — If you ever find yourself doing this activity in a sexuality education workshop with the male participant group, please stay quiet about this observation. The post-activity discussion where you ask the participants if they see any similarities or differences between genders is important and it can be very educational for men to realize that women may have different concerns than they do. It can be a real “eureka” moment for some men.

Note — this blog post is based on a comment I made on Greg Laden’s blog today (“Ladies, Richard Dawkins knows how to protect you from being raped in an elevator“).

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2 Responses to Unexamined Male Privilege in the Atheist Movement – Part III

  1. Judy says:

    Thank you for this series. This feminist, non-theist, sexuality educator and U.U. felt a glimmer of hope while reading this. It’s gratifying to know that more folks (especially those who identify as males) “get” this. Love and light to you, Steve. You bless our movement and world.

  2. Pingback: Behavioral Covenants and Atheist Meetings | Philosophical Penguins

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