Sometime in 1994, I was an eleven year old girl at a sleepover. My best friend, and her younger sister, and I were curled up in our sleeping bags watching Labyrinth. I was filled with popcorn, soda, and more than a vague interest in what was under David Bowie’s leotard.
Labyrinth is a cultural touchstone for geek girls. And while the swooning over David Bowie is what we seem to remember most, there was also an introduction to a famous logic puzzle:
ALPH: You can only ask one of us.
RALPH: It’s in the rules. One of us always tells the truth, and one of us always lies. He always lies.
ALPH: I do not! I tell the truth!
RALPH: Oh, what a lie!
SARAH: All right. Answer yes or no. Would he [points to Ralph] tell me that this door leads to the castle?
ALPH: Uh… Yes.
SARAH: Then the other door leads to the castle, and this door leads to certain death…. I’ve figured it out! I think I’m getting smarter!
It’s also known as the “knights and knaves” puzzle and more than just an exercise in critical thinking, it reminds me of a dilemma women, especially straight women, are placed in every day.
Pervocracy calls it The Myth of the Boner Werewolf. Dudes on the internet are fond of insisting that “a hard dick has no conscience.” Men tell me every day that an attack on creepshots is an attack on male sexuality, as if it were always inherently predatory. And there’s also the ever present victim blaming brigade that ask assaulted women “What did you expect?” as if rape were a natural and unstoppable reflex, and not the conscious decision of the rapist.
Instead of knaves who always lie, we have rapists saying that all men are rapists. And some women believe them. Rather than of knights who always tell the truth, we have feminists and their allies who say that men are capable of decent behavior and there is nothing inherently evil about male sexuality.
The idea that men cannot control their sexuality is dehumanizing. Men do not face systematic oppression simply for being men. But our cultural myth that men are always precariously on the edge of raping a woman, or that we cannot expect otherwise is hateful toward men, and something I will never object to being labeled misandry.
Women embrace this lie about men out of self preservation, similar to the reasons women resort to victim-blaming. If you act as if men are not in control of their sexuality, you might save yourself from being assaulted, unlike those poor other girls who didn’t have the common sense not to trust men. But believing this does not make it true. This myth has been around for centuries and has not stopped a single man from raping a woman. Instead, it protects rapists as being helpless victims of circumstances rather than deliberately violent assailants.
Just as feminism calls for treating women as full and equal human beings, it also holds men accountable for their actions, and rejects the idea that they cannot help themselves simply because of who they are.