Real Men Don’t EXIST

Posted: April 2, 2011 in Feminism, Gender Violence, Identity, Masculinities, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

This is the actress Charlize Theron doing a video for an anti-rape campaign. Here is a transcript of her words:

‘People often ask me what the men are like in South Africa.

If we consider that more women are raped in South Africa than in any other country in the world.

That one in three women are raped in their lifetime, in South Africa.

That every 26 seconds a woman is raped in South Africa.

And perhaps worst of all, that the rest of the men in South Africa seem to think rape isn’t their problem.

It’s not that easy to say what the MEN in South Africa are like, because there seem to be so few of them out there.’

– The end credits – REAL MEN DON’T RAPE

I have written before about ‘real men don’t rape’ campaigns. And I have taken part in discussions on Mark Simpson’s blog about how the idea of ‘real men’ is used in our (and especially American) culture to present a macho, manly version of masculinity, that really is quite ‘camp’ if you look at it closely enough. It is laughable, and we have laughed at it mercilessly, but it is also a way that men are reminded to maintain a presentation of their masculinity that denies whole aspects of themselves. And that demonises anything feminine, anything ‘faggy’, anything ‘sissy’.

But this ad featuring Charlize Theron takes the concept of ‘real men’ one step further.

Theron is a white woman of South African origin. An attractive woman. The typical ‘victim’, the most acceptable ‘victim’ of unwanted attention by predatory men is the attractive, young, white female. And in South Africa, even years after apartheid was officially disbanded, the aggressor that would immediately come to our minds when we think of an attractive white woman, would be a black man.

‘It’s not that easy to say what the MEN in South Africa are like, because there seem to be so few of them out there’ says Charlize.

The men in South Africa who rape women are not ‘real men’. The men who do not challenge the men who rape women in South Africa are not ‘real men’. And so, in South Africa, where the majority of men are black, incidentally, there are ‘so few’ real men ‘out there’.

If a man is not a ‘real man’ what is he? A pussy? A faggot? A wimp? A sissy?

When I was beaten by an ex partner, many of my friends commented on how cowardly it was for a man to hit a woman. How pathetic. How only the lowest of the low in masculinity would do such a thing. I hated that. Because non-consensual violence isn’t exactly ‘cool’ in any situation as far as I am concerned. And I was already excruciatingly aware of my ‘weakness’ in that relationship. To have it hammered home to me by ‘concerned’ bystanders just made it worse. They were commenting on my ex not as a person, but as a ‘man’. And if they were saying ‘what kind of man would do that to a woman?’ it followed, in this woman’s mind at least, that they were also saying ‘what sort of woman would go with a man that would do that?”

So in this grim picture of South Africa that Theron paints, it is not just the men that sound pathetic, ‘unmanly’ and cowardly. The women don’t come out of it too well either. What sort of women would let men do that to them? Helpless, oppressed women?

I can’t quite believe this ‘advert’ exists.  I know that South Africa is riddled with socio-economic problems. But they are not caused by the characters of individual ‘men’. The ‘men’ in South Africa are not worse than the men anywhere else in the world. They suffer along with the women in that country. Those of them that suffer. Because some men in South Africa live rather nice, opulent lives and so do some women. A woman such as Charlize Theron, for example, should she return to her homeland, would be among the richest in the country I expect. She would be in much less danger of violence than other women anyway.

Real Men don’t exist it seems in South Africa.

But that is no surprise to me. Because I believe that ‘real men’ don’t exist anywhere.

  1. Alex says:

    Look at this one. Forcing women to have sex with you is unpatriotic too now.

    • does he say ‘guys. Let’s take back our pride?’

      It is all very Heart of Darkness, where manliness and ‘nationhood’ and ‘natives’ are all entwined. And of course it is a black man South African taking the role of ‘perpetrator’ here symbolically.

      I know you understand why I use ‘ ‘s!!

  2. redpesto says:

    I don’t know if you’ve read this article by John Harris (the comments are, inevitably, a trainwreck), but there seems to be a competition in (re)claiming ‘real’ masculinity between social conservatives and pro-feminist men, neither of whom like what they see in contemporary masculinity.

  3. Mel says:

    This piece is a complete non sequitur. Your actual point is indecipherable.

  4. This is one thing that ticked me of on a post on Feministe–Most men aren’t rapists……

    Yes, there are many female victims of rape….

    How is this so? Many rapists commit multiple attacks before being caught (if ever caught.)

    For example you can be in a neighborhood with many burglaries and just a few burglars….

    Now everything I am saying is not to diminish or dismiss rape victims. It is just to say that the shaming tactics that go on against many males whom would not commit rape are probably doing very little to stop the possibly sociopathic men committing these acts….

    • Tim says:


      As far as I know these ads should not prevent these sociopathic men from raping directly. I think it is believed that no kind of message probagated in the media will stop these men because they believe they are right in what they do.

      What these ads should do is making men, who would not rape to begin with, feel bad and make them pick up responsibility for the actions of other men. You are to put the men in your life under a general suspicion because one of them might be one of those sociopaths and if you fail to recognize them and prevent them from raping then it is your fault.

      • hercules what you want says:

        that is low you can’t go blame someone else for not playing the super hero, so every man out there has to be batman petrolling the streets looking for potential rapists and when he finds one he has to stop them at all costs (even if the guy is twice his size and built like bolo yeung) so what if he gets killed trying to save a stranger, because now he proved hes a “REAL MAN” . what on earth did you do to deserve a hero like that? tell me , perhaps if women treated men with respect (repect not worship just simple respect) stop these backhanded comments and petty insults and you will find that men will begin to act more heroic on their own. real men don’t exsist because real women don’t exsist either. and im not talking about house slaves ok.

        • Rape-deserves-death-penalty says:

          Honestly men that rape or abuse women regardless of colour or race seriously your not showing masculinity it is need for any rapist whether if they think its right well I got news for you, your just a smear of disposable rubbish that shouldn’t exist and your punishment should result in execution or firing squad by the family of the victim, as all female victims of rape will never be the same after this heinous crime, the victims commit suicide or go into a life of fear or prostitution 60% of cases around the world women are raped are living in constant fear and usually end up same sex relationships cause (men that commit this heinous crime) they think men are disgusting pigs and it is true. Like a while ago I was on my way home one afternoon and a young schoolgirl was just about to be assaulted and even in a female public toilet, I heard someone scream for help as I walked by and I immediately acted upon instinct even putting my own life at risk and I helped the young girl out and came to her aid not to mention that belted the living crap out of the 25 year old Lebanese male and dragged him to the local authorities I was praised and thanked graciously by the young frightened 17 year old girl. i didn’t want to be charged with the assault I had inflicted on the young male that was going to commit the crime and because of the young female I felt that if I didn’t do anything she would be just a number of women that will be assaulted list but I just happened to be at the right place at the time to be a saviour and I would save another if I could .
          If you don’t try to save one life you’ll never save any!!!
          The justice system needs to toughen up and enforce the death penalty on rapists…

    • typhonblue says:

      “It is just to say that the shaming tactics that go on against many males whom would not commit rape are probably doing very little to stop the possibly sociopathic men committing these acts….”

      Oh, but stoner, it does do something!

      It gives these sociopathic men the belief that what they are doing is widely lauded as manhood by the greater society. That they, in fact, are expressing manhood rather then their own damaged psyches.

      I bet the sociopathic men who are exposed to ‘men rape because it makes them feel manly’ hate speech have a positive glow about them, a lightness to their step and an even greater desire to go out and ply their disfunction.

      After all, if it’s manly/masculine/male to rape then they are the only real men in this discourse. No matter how much these propagandists spout off to the contrary about ‘real men’, they are implicitly associating maleness with rape. And if you associate maleness with rape you are destigmatizing male rapists and allowing them to hide from their own disfunction. Instead of damaged children, they become the ‘only real men doing what real men do-which is rape.’

      Hey thanks feminists! Thanks for making women less safe!

  5. Clarence says:


    You’ve put very succinctly and even a bit eloquently into words what I and quite a few men in the MRA and egalitarian (as opposed to the majority of feminists who are gynocentric) feminist camps have noticed over the past few years and written about. But I’ve never seen it stated so succinctly. There is indeed a bit of a contest going on between some so-cons (men and women) and (probably not just some but most) feminists as to who can lay a claim as to what real masculinity is. They both agree that most men now are flawed, and not up to their varying standards. I think the real revelation will hit both of them eventually that most men don’t give a shit what either side thinks. Neither the feminists are the mainstream of the “traditionalist conservative” or religious movements has asked the typical 20 to 45 year old man what we want, nor have they bothered offering us anything but shame and blame and lots of pain to join with them in their movements for liberation from either this oppressive world or our oppressive selves.

    Screw em, to be blunt.

  6. arctic_jay says:

    Unfortunately, Clarence, I’m not sure you’re right that men, as a whole, don’t give a shit. I wish they didn’t, but in my experience, every single male I’ve ever known well has valued his manhood on and was deeply affected on some level at having it questioned.

    I’ve seen even the most flamboyant. queerest (politically and personality wise) men wince at having his lack of masculinity mocked. Actually, I think flamboyance is a soft boy’s revenge at being excluded from the world of traditional masculinity.

    The easiest way to manipulate men is by convincing them that manhood lies in adhering to the values you hold. Hopefully, men en masse will learn to develop a sense of masculinity that serves their ends and not some cultural authority. I mean, what should be more central to masculinity than independence?

    • typhonblue says:

      And these guys aren’t running up on the problem that neither feminists nor conservatives really have an answer for them?

  7. Tim says:

    I hate the ‘Real Men’ shtick.

    Everyone and their poodles seem to have a right to define what makes someone a real men and what not.
    And guess what, if you don’t want or are incapable of complying, you end up being made fun of or people will start looking down on you as if you are some kind of degenerate.

    I am sick of people telling me that I am not a real men, when …
    … I don’t drink excessively/not at all/light beer
    … I don’t have sex 2 times a day with 3 different women
    … I don’t like sports or cars or any of the other 100 things real men are supposed to like
    … I don’t act like a gentlemen/dn’t want to pay for all dates by myself
    … I am incapable of repairing a fridge/have no Idea how to fix your car

    And probably thousands of other things advetising, common knowledge, magazines and whoever else thinks s/he believes to have a say in this.

    The same thing applies to rape. Raping someone has nothing to do with being a REAL MAN or a man or not. Not raping is a trait common to a decent human, not a REAL MAN.

    But I guess there is no reason to distinguish between REAL MAN and human beings when you believe that woman are incapable of raping per default.

    • yes tim your last point is pertinent. ‘real men don’t rape’ is based on the idea that only men rape, and they only rape women

      • luckywood says:

        I don’t really think the slogan “Real Men Don’t Rape” precludes the possibility that women might also rape, or denies that men can be victims of rape as well as perpetrators. It does focus on male perpetrators, which makes sense given that the overwhelming majority of rapes in South Africa are by men, of women.

        The ad is obviously premised on the idea that South African men largely don’t see rape as a serious matter. That is undoubtedly unfair on a large number of South African men. But given that 25% of South African men freely admitted to having raped a woman, half of those to multiple rapes, it seems obvious that a pretty large section of South African men don’t see rape as something to be ashamed of.

    • typhonblue says:

      Hell, I’d take that further.

      There is no point distinguishing between real men and human beings if you think women are actually capable of the actions that real men are capable of.

      So the whole ‘real man’ discourse hinges on there being a set of behaviors that women, by default, cannot engage in. Good or bad.

  8. Kit says:

    Oh wow, some rather unfortunate implications in that campaign then – classy :/

  9. redpesto says:


    The easiest way to manipulate men is by convincing them that manhood lies in adhering to the values you hold. Hopefully, men en masse will learn to develop a sense of masculinity that serves their ends and not some cultural authority.

    Yes – but there’s nothing inherently ‘manly’ in obeying the law, even though lots of men do. Moreover, there is already a ‘manly’ discourse that says ‘real men don’t hit women’ as well as a wider discourse that says you don’t get what you want by beating people up.

  10. Danny says:

    More fuel to my raging fire over the “real men” nonsense. We got people using “real men…” lines to hold the old ways of masculinity up and we got so called progressives that think they are being hip/ironic/taking back/whatthefuckever by laying claim to the term “real man”.

    They can have the damn term for all I care. I just hope they don’t get mad when I make up my own code about being a man and not give a shit about what they claim a “real man” is supposed to be. Because let’s face it the people that want to dictate that are just trying to shape men to their liking (yes even the ones that claim they are trying to free men from our bonds).

  11. aleknovy says:

    Very true…

    These campaigns just normalize rape/trafficking etc… Its saying to the SICK twisted psychopaths “oh, that’s what some men do”… No, its what SICK MONSTERS do.

    Its a monster thing to do, not a “man” thing to do.

  12. […] to go with all the other ‘real man’ campaigns. Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and  Charlize Theron seem to love this symbolic macho posturing. Real Men Don’t Buy Girls! Real Men Don’t […]

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