Men: The Jekyll And Hyde Syndrome
By Julia Stonehouse
I was walking up the stairs at my restaurant workplace late one evening and found my boss standing in my way with his arms outstretched. He looked at me as if to say “you’re not going anywhere.” In that frozen moment, we both knew rape was on his mind. As I was a few steps below him, and his groin was right in front of my eyes, I reached out and twisted. He fell back; I ran. Another time, a delivery driver came into my apartment and suddenly decided he was going to rape me. The door was still open, I screamed like hell, and my lesbian neighbours came running to my aid, fists flying. Another time, I was in the basement bathroom at a restaurant and a waiter came in and tried to stop me leaving. I had to fight him tooth and nail, and I suppose he didn’t pursue it too long because my boyfriend was sitting upstairs waiting for me. I didn’t tell him what had happened because he was a rugby player and would’ve killed the guy.
Up to the moment when these men turned, I thought they were okay. I’d worked for my boss for months. He was old and fat and couldn’t possibly think I’d led him on. The delivery guy was normal and friendly until his big arms grabbed me. The waiter was at work, for Christ’s sake! We were in a public place. What on earth came over these men, turning them from the normal Dr. Jekyll, into the evil Mr. Hyde?
Men have an astonishing sense of entitlement – all those men thought they had some kind of right to possess my body. They were casual, like it was just a normal day. I don’t think they were overtaken by an uncontrollable haze of lust so much as an inbred haze of entitlement. This is what we’re up against.
Domestic violence has a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ quality too. You think the man is okay until he punches you in the face. And it only needs to happen once. After that, he can just raise his hand, or give you a look. We both know where this can lead: he can be nice Dr. Jekyll, or nasty Mr. Hyde. Either way, you’re being controlled.
I was following a guy on Facebook, thinking he was a nice and interesting person, until he put up a post referring to the #metoo movement, with Isacc Newton, the scientist, saying “men act, and women over-react.” I commented “this is beneath you, take down that stupid post,” He replied “The meme is apparently true,” and then his friends came in: “yawn, yawn”; “Oh Gawd.”
We can unfriend a jerk on Facebook, but we can’t get away from all the Jekyll and Hyde’s out there. If I pointed out the 3 men who tried to rape me to other men, they’d probably say “oh, but he’s such a nice guy.” They might not even believe me. Men have no idea what’s going on. They think all men are the nice Dr Jekyll.
The man who wrote Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson, is said to have been influenced by the trial of his friend, Eugene Chantrelle, who was convicted of murdering his wife with opium in 1878. Stephenson attended the trial and was appalled that a man he thought he knew could have such a shocking dual personality. (It’s thought that Chantrelle also murdered other people).
If I met Stevenson today I’d say “welcome to our world” – a world in which women are wary of men because we don’t know who they really are. With the huge number of incidences of rape and sexual assault, we can’t say that all these men have dual personalities and dangerous alter egos. Mental problems do not account for the sheer volume of incidents. The problem, more likely, has evolved from all men’s historical and patriarchal entitlement to the female body. In the UK, rape within marriage was legal until 1991. In many parts of the world, it still is.
Historically, women belonged to men in law, like pieces of furniture. Behind this fact lies the central tenant of patriarchy: there’s one seed of life, and it comes from the man, while a woman is the tool for his reproduction. A woman had no sexual rights because her sexuality didn’t belong to her, it belonged to a man because she didn’t actually reproduce herself. She reproduced him. Of course, we’ve come a long way since 1900, when this idea was scientifically disproved, but echoes from that past ethos remain, and they ring out the notion that women’s bodies belong to men.
In April 2018, a 25-year old self-defined ‘incel’ (involuntarily celibate man) drove a van into pedestrians in Toronto, killing 8 women and 2 men, and injuring 16 others. He put the blame on women for not satisfying his sexual desires. He thought he had ‘rights.’ Rapists think they have ‘rights’ to women’s bodies. And countless men think they have the ‘right’ to rape their wives or partners, or bash them into submission. This is what male entitlement looks like, and it’s all part of the same old patriarchal package.
Heterosexual women are on the front line in the battle to overturn patriarchy; theirs is one-to-one combat. They need back-up, which is why we should all be feminists and support each other. And mothers are the ‘Intelligence Corps’ – informing the next generation about the hazards of inequality. But we all need to be vigilant, on look-out duty.
Remember too that battles create collateral damage: you don’t have to be heterosexual to get raped; and in the Toronto massacre, while the target was young women, 3 of the victims were over 80 years old.
Mr. Hyde is lurking behind a culture that embodies male entitlement. It’s in our political institutions, spiritual organisations, and pornography. It’s everywhere, like a toxic fog. And when we see it, we have to call it out. We must continue with the #metoo movement and other campaigns, keep talking, keep complaining, and keep demanding autonomy over our own bodies.
The battle of the sexes is a war of attrition, and we will win it step by tedious step. I was pleased to see that the girlfriend of that jerk on Facebook put an angry face emoji next to his stupid post, and I would’ve liked to hear their conversation about it. That will be her step. Together, we march!