Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why Do Canadian Men Behave Like Pigs?

The ongoing Jian Ghomeshi scandal in Canada has brought the issue of violence against women to the forefront, and I find myself shaking my head and wondering why so many Canadian men behave like pigs towards women.

Jian Ghomeshi who for many years was known as a charming and talented radio host, appears now to have been physically abusing many women for many years with impunity (Ghomeshi’s staff complained about ‘culture of fear’).  It is reported that Ghomeshi’s abuse affected many women, all his staff knew about it, it was even reported within the organization, but Ghomeshi’s abuse was allowed to continue.

In September 2003, a story broke out about a chant promoting rape in main events of Frosh Week at the University Of British Columbia Sauder School Of Business.   Not having learned anything from the UBC incident, a similar chant was reported at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax the following year.  Apparently, Frosh leaders, both at St. Mary’s and at UBC said “it’s just lyrics, it’s just a chant, they had no meaning behind it” (Frosh week controversies).

In November 2014, two players from the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees hockey team were charged with sexually assaulting a young woman in a Thunder Bay hotel during a game trip seven months earlier (University of Ottawa sexual assault scandal highlights campus rape culture).  Taking no chances, the university president Allan Rock suspended the entire team, but his caution was criticized by students as “unfair”.

Radio hosts and university students are considered to be among the most educated Canadians, and such educated people are expected to understand that women are not their sexual toys.  Some people have suggested that Canadian universities have a “rape culture” (Canadian universities tackle campus rape culture).  I think that the problem extends far beyond universities.

According to Canada’s Department of Justice, “the highest number of police-reported sexual offences were against girls between the ages of 11 to 19, peaking at age 13 (781 per 100,000 population)” (Statistics on Sexual Assault).  Think about this for a minute: Thirteen years old girls are the favourite target of rapists.  The same document also states that “78% of sexual assaults were not reported to the police”; other reports give even higher numbers, going as high as 94% (

One could argue that 781 per 100,000 population is only 0.78% and therefore not representative of the general Canadian population.  However, since only 78% of sexual assaults are reported, the actual rate is 3.5%.  In addition, the 3.5% rate of rape is only the tip of the iceberg.  Sexual misconduct goes well beyond rape.  In June 2013, almost 300 current and former female RCMP officers joined a class-action lawsuit alleging harassment in the workplace (282 join RCMP sexual harassment class-action lawsuit).

According to the Canadian Labour Congress, “10% of women 18 to 24 years of age report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace within the previous 12 months” (Women's Health and Safety).  At this rate, it is not hard to imagine that most women in Canada have experienced sexual harassment at least once in their lives.  In fact, the private company Canadian Labour Relations estimates that over 90% of women in Canada have been sexually harassed at least once.  This is far beyond an innocent Frosh week chant; this indicates a sense of entitlement on the part of men towards women and girls.

This is clearly not a Canadian problem only, but we pride ourselves on being better than the rest of the world.  We have a reputation for being polite, liberal, and egalitarian.  Perhaps we do not deserve it.  The reality is that the vast majority of Canadian men have behaved like pigs at one point or another in their lives, and many, like Ghomeshi, appear to feel fully entitled to do so as often as they wish.  It is not just our universities that have a twisted idea of sexual consent; this syndrome appears to be widely shared among men in our society.

I don’t know why men do this.  Perhaps we have not yet evolved beyond the caveman mentality.  Perhaps we are unable to handle modern life, and we take out our frustrations on those who cannot defend themselves; after all, sexual violence is violence, not sex.  Whatever the reason, we should be ashamed of ourselves, but most importantly we need to change.  There is no excuse.

Note: a modified version of this blog was published at