Posted by: CeCe | October 1, 2013

For the men

I’ve written about sexual assault several times on here, I know, and there are probably some who are tired of hearing about it.  That’s fine.  However, I’m hoping that this one will be a little bit different.  See, I only recently began to identify as a feminist, and as I’ve started studying more into it and reading more feminist literature (mostly online), I’ve been seeing a trend: More and more feminists are trying to use gender-inclusive language when speaking about sexual assault, except in cases where they’re specifically talking about what women experience, in spaces created for women.  Because of this, I’ve started to realize that I’m guilty of placing too much emphasis on what women have experienced as far as sexual assault and harassment, and not enough on the troubles of men.

Over the last 24 hours, I asked a question of my friends on Facebook, first to women, then to the men.  The question was, “Have you ever been sexually assaulted or harassed?”  The response from the female side was staggering and heart-breaking (but also amazing, because there was so much strength and courage displayed!), there were so many of them.  But one of the things that I noticed was that the female thread had a lot of hugs and love going around, while on the male thread… not so much.  I realize that men have trouble expressing themselves, because they’re often so afraid of appearing “weak” or “feminine”.  I wish it wasn’t this way, but it is.  I wish I could see men reaching out to each other in love and compassion and saying, “Hey, you’re alright, you’re strong, you’re courageous, and you’re worth so much more than you realize.”  But unfortunately, although perhaps many men do think that about each other, and many women think that about the men they know too, it’s just not possible with society the way it is for men to actually say this aloud to the other men they know.

The other thing that I noticed was that while for the most part the women didn’t hesitate to answer the question, from the men, I received much fewer responses.  Now I don’t know whether it’s because I, a woman, was asking the question, or whether the men who have been harassed or assaulted are loathe to admit it, but I do think that this says something about society in general, even if it is too small of a sample size to be worth very much in the way of statistics.  I’m not a statistician though, and I think that often what we see out of our friends does say something about society at large.  The men I’m friends with are fairly representative of society; they’re of varying ages and backgrounds, come from different parts of the world, have different hobbies and careers, and some are single while some are married, with or without children.  And yet, out of the men I’m friends with on Facebook, nearly all of them had this one thing in common when it came to the question: Silence.

The truth is, in society, there is still this idea that a man who has been assaulted or harassed is somehow less than.  He’s somehow not whole, not a “real man”.  And I think that this explains the silence completely.  I don’t think it’s a matter of trust, because I’m sure that most of my male friends know that they can trust me to not make fun of them, and they can trust me to treat them with compassion, and assure them that what has happened to them was not their fault, and that they’re still “real” men, whatever that entails.  I don’t think they’re afraid of me.  Or at least I hope not.  But if they are, that’s not their fault.  How can they ever be sure?  Most men are brought up to believe that showing most kinds of emotion (except for anger and, on occasion, sexual interest) are “weak” and “feminine”, and admitting to anything that society views as shameful in their past is absolutely verboten.

And so, they hold their silence.  And hold it.  And hold it.  And bottle it up inside, put it in a steel box with an impossibly complicated locking mechanism, inside a room behind a ten-inch thick steel door.  Why?  Because that’s what “manly men” do.

I have to tell you, guys, I think this is really sad.  In many ways, it’s liberating to be a woman, because if we break down and cry with our girlfriends, if we reach out and hug each other, comfort each other, lean on each other, it’s okay.  But for men to do that?  Oh no!

So what’s the answer?  I don’t know.  But I do think that it’s time for you guys to break your silence.  Not necessarily to me, but to someone.  Speak up.  If you’ve ever been victimized, say so, and if someone tells you that makes you less of a man, or tells you that you must have liked it, or tells you that you deserved it, or tells you that your feelings are unwarranted, you tell them this: “You.  Are.  Part.  Of.  The.  Problem.”  Because they are.

The truth is, as individuals, we do create our own reality, and if we’re ever going to facilitate change, we’ve got to be willing to put ourselves out there.  If you are ever going to facilitate change, you have got to be willing to put yourself out there.  You owe it to yourself.  You owe it to your sons.  And know this: I’m behind you every step of the way, and not only that, but most other women will be behind you too.  As for the ones who aren’t?  They’re part of the problem.

Break your silence.  Because  you know what?  You are alright.  You are brave.  You are strong and courageous.  And you’re worth so much more than you realize.

Also, here are some resources for male victims of sexual assault and harassment:
http://www.malesurvivor.org/
(US only) 1-800-656-HOPE
https://1in6.org/
http://www.pandys.org/malesurvivors.html
http://www.aftersilence.org/male-survivors.php
http://www.rainn.org/get-information/types-of-sexual-assault/male-sexual-assault

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Responses

  1. Well stated, CeCe. We have a double standard that if women are overpowered, they were victimized by someone. But, if that happens to men, it’s somehow their failure. THIS IS WRONG TO HAVE THIS DOUBLE STANDARD. Men and boys can also be overpowered. We need to give these men the same comfort and encouragement in a way that’s meaningful to them.

    • Thank you very much. I absolutely *hate* this double standard, and we’ve all got to start eradicating it completely. Thanks for your comment!

  2. […] too hurt and angry to even think about tackling it. A few months ago, I wrote a post about how I had asked a question of my Facebook friends regarding whether or not they had ever been sexually harassed or assaulted. In the post I link […]


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