After the media fallout stemming from the accusations of sexual harassment, abuse, rape, and coercion by Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood personalities, social media began to see the #MeToo movement. Women who have been sexually oppressed in any manner have been posting the hashtag “#MeToo” on the internet. Some followed it up with a brief explanation of its purpose to spread awareness, some went into detail on their personal experiences, and some simply typed and posted those two words.
The #MeToo movement itself is credited as being started in 2006 by social activist Tarana Burke, encouraging MySpace users to post. Eleven years later, the movement received a rebirth from actress Alyssa Milano, on more updated social media platforms. I gathered with a small group of colleagues to sit down and discuss their thoughts and experiences with sexual oppression, as a means of getting a better understanding and spreading awareness on the topic. This series chronicles that discussion.
Pluses and Arrows
“It doesn’t happen to men"
One issue that has arisen from the #MeToo movement is that many people are shifting the focus to portraying men as monsters. Obviously, not all men are guilty, but more importantly, not all recipients of sexual oppression are women. Yes— this is primarily a problem for women, but men are victimized, too, though their stories aren’t as well-documented.
Why is that?
One reason is that sometimes people don’t believe them. Much like it does with women, “That didn’t happen,” and “You’re lying,” are responses people give when men open up to someone about sexual oppression. When someone is daring enough to trust someone else with a personal and vulnerable experience, and are told that they are wrong and it didn’t happen, why on earth would they feel comfortable sharing it again? Instead, they keep it bottled up inside, which is not necessarily an ideal way of handling any form of anxiety. Sadly, the fear of not being believed is quite universal among victims of sexual oppression; it is shared by many females and males alike.
Another related reason is leverage. There are circumstances where a man is attacked, raped, or continually harassed and abused by a woman, and then the woman threatens to accuse the man that she is the victim if he should want to report it. In this case, a man may worry that in a battle of he-said-she-said, the woman would actually be more likely to be believed. Again, this is another reason shared by female victims of sexual oppression.
Those who commit these abuses may use this leverage over the recipient to not only allow them protection from being accused but also to leave the door open for repeated accounts of future abuse. This leverage holds power over the recipient, often leaving them with even more intensified guilt, shame, confusion, anger, depression and doubt.
Masculinity and Identity
In a society where there is no official course on “manhood,” and role models vary, many boys and young men end up with identity issues. Based on wanting to “feel like a man” and be viewed as a man, “masculinity” is on the line. In many cases, involvement in sports, alcohol abuse and sex with women become yardsticks for measuring masculinity.
For many males, when one is molested or abused, especially by another male figure, one’s masculinity and sexuality tend to come into question. They may internally be struggling with what it means. What does being raped by a male family member mean about my sexuality? Does having my virginity taken away by a man automatically make me gay? What will others think? Who can I even tell?
These are only a small list of potential questions that could be going on inside the head of a male who was sexually oppressed by another male, not to mention what other forms of self-doubt or other negative feelings he could be going through. If the recipient naturally turns out to be gay, he may wonder if they are gay naturally or as a result of being attacked/abused. Also, if the attacker was a family member (which it often is), there’s the question of how your relationship with other family members might change if you tell someone.
Erections Don’t Mean That You Want It
This is especially true for boys ages six to sixteen, though it applies to all males. Boys start noticing that their anatomy has different phases around six or seven, and they don’t necessarily know what it means to begin with. The workings of an erection at that point in their lives is primarily subconscious, and more of a natural reaction that they have no control over.
As they develop into puberty, however, erections can happen at any moment. Certain smells, the sound of a voice, a non-sexual touch, or even something like the wind blowing can set off an erection. Many boys typically get embarrassed because they can’t explain why it is happening or why they can’t stop it. It is often during these times that an unwanted touch can activate an unwanted response that gets taken advantage of by an oppressor.
It’s important that young boys and even grown men realize that they may not have wanted what was happening to them, but their body naturally responded in a way that they could not control. This does not mean that they wanted it, and it does not mean that they encouraged it.
“Rite of Passage”
In cases where a young male is molested or abused by a woman, admitting to it often gets misconstrued and congratulated by other males. Statements and displays of congratulations or approval are some responses a young man may receive when opening up about being sexually abused by a woman. Making the recipient feel as though they should be “thankful" that the attack occurred adds to the pressures of so-called machismo, and discredits and discourages many males from making any form of a report.
Whether you’re male or female, having your body violated, by no matter what person, can bring on guilt, shame, and confusion, as well as many other feelings. Regardless of gender identiy or orientation, for a person to be legitimately upset about abuse they received, only to have their story doubted, sexuality questioned, or to be treated as though they just went through a “rite of passage” is a large part of the problem. As a society, we need to take the time to learn how to address the stories of survivors in a manner that actually helps them. And, if we don’t know how to address it, then we need to make sure that we find someone who can in order to provide the correct supports.
For more resources about Sexual Assault, Violence, Victim Assistance, and other forms of Sexual Oppression visit www.rainn.org/national-resources-sexual-assault-survivors-and-their-loved-ones or call (800) 656-HOPE (4673)
“The #MeToo Movement” series continues Wednesday, December 6th, 2017.
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