What have we learned from #Metoo?
Even before the #metoo movement began, Associate Professor Kenneth Reinicke from RUC was working on a research project to chart why men violate. The researcher believes that part of the solution could be better sexual education in primary school.
Kenneth Reinicke is an atypical researcher. There are several books in his office with colourful covers and idiomatic, titles such as ‘De unge fædre’ [The Young Fathers], ‘Mænd i lyst og nød’ [Men in lust and need] and ‘Mænd: Køn under Forvandling’ [Men: Gender under Change], all with his name on the cover. He does not hide the fact that he would much rather write for a wider audience than for narrow scientific circles. There are also indications that this is a useful strategy, since his latest research project has been startlingly relevant for almost every adult citizen on the planet:
He has investigated why men violate and what types of violators exist, and while the whole world has been shocked by the extent of sexual harassment and assault, Kenneth Reinicke has been able to follow events through a prism of insights from several years of research in an area that can be labelled under the term "men's destructive behaviour".
Three types of violators
Kenneth Reinicke’s research has, among other things, mapped three archetypes among male violators, ranging from 'hardcore', i.e. the most conscious violator, to the 'opportunist', who seizes an opportunity without actually having a planned intention, to the ‘unconscious’, i.e. the bungler, who is simply unable to behave properly and therefore goes much too far. The distinction itself is important for understanding how many different ways a violation can occur, and how differently a situation can be perceived:
»When this field appeared in the 1970s, it was mostly concerned with investigating workplaces and educational institutions, but there is an enormous amount of violations that take place in public spaces, which were not formerly perceived by society to be something criminal. You get the feeling that it has been such a normal feature of life for women to be harassed that there was no inclination to regard it as a problem, because it was simply part of our culture,« explains Kenneth Reinicke, who had expected that a ‘revolution’ like #metoo would occur sooner or later. What he had not expected, was its extent:
»I absolutely never thought that #metoo would be so big. I was doing my research and had read a lot about the subject, but I had no idea how big it would be, and that there would be such a potential for change,« he recalls.
A moment of learning
The change potential he talks about has become a core element of what we can learn from the recent months' focus on sexual behaviour, he believes:
»It's really a moment of learning right now. It is a call for men to think about their behaviour and to change. The best outcome is that we achieve a clarification of what is culturally legitimate to pursue and that we define how we should behave.«
In a slightly broader sense, it is about men gaining an insight into what they have failed to think about until now.
»For example, when I have been out socialising in the city, I have never contemplated the possibility of experiencing a sexual assault on myself. It rarely happens to a man, so I experience #metoo as awareness-raising with respect to a woman's perspective,« explains Kenneth Reinicke.
»Of course, every politician will say that it is bad that assaults take place, but nothing more than that has occurred politically.
So, although we can already see that the ‘metoo movement’ has begun to wane, a real change has taken place that we will be able to feel from now on, he believes:
»I think that many people have learned that it's about not allowing your desires to impact those you encounter in the pub or at the workplace. Naturally, you should still be able to flirt, but in a manner that is respectful. If you want to enter into another person's personal space, you must first have their permission. This is some of what we've learned from the metoo movement,« says Kenneth Reinicke, who thinks that the movement will have a far-reaching effect on our everyday life:
»After #metoo, it has become more legitimate to say no, and where a woman might previously have been fobbed off, she will now be listened to. This also means that women have become more aware of what is acceptable. The same applies for men.«