Male survivors of sexual assault and harassment aren’t taken seriously enough because of the long list of stereotypes we hold them accountable for. There needs to be an end put to these stereotypes if we ever want these survivors to speak up and help put an end to sexual assault. One in six men are sexually abused throughout their lifetime (1in6). Yet, I’m sure we’ve all heard the slick remarks about men not being able to get raped, but if they do
- that they’re pretty lucky.
- that he could’ve fought the perpetrator off.
- that he must’ve wanted it.
The list goes on. But why? Why do we find it so hard to believe that men are capable of being sexually abused just as easily as anyone else.
Part of it deals with our stereotype of what the characteristics of a “real man” should be, which is often referred to as toxic masculinity. These ideas force men into a bubble that it is hard for them to break out of. If we believe that men should possess some ultimate strength, then we cannot fathom their inability to fight off any form of potential harm. If we believe that men always want sex we begin to believe that they are incapable of saying no, which makes rape a nonfactor. However, these ideas couldn’t be further from the truth. Rape is rape, regardless of who is causing the harm or who is a victim of it.
Men who have been sexually abused also deal with the question of their sexuality, if the perpetrator was male. Regardless of what their sexual orientation is, it is common for people to wonder how this assault has affected it. However, the answer is, it doesn’t. More often than not these assaults are about power and domination, rarely are they ever about proving someone to be gay or not.
Just as the sexual assault of a man does not make him gay, it also does not mean he should want it if his attacker is a woman. Lastly, the myth that men cannot be sexually assaulted or abused by women needs to be addressed. Women are usually seen as the weaker gender, so some people can’t seem to fathom how one is capable of hurting someone who is supposed to be biologically bigger and stronger than they are. However, we cannot forget how important manipulation and coercion can be in these attacks. So regardless of who appears to be physically stronger, perpetrators can use tactics to lure their victims in and make them feel forced to perform acts that they aren’t truly comfortable with.
The lack of belief in male survivors and the shaming they receive when coming forward with their stories can lead to a lack of reporting these attacks at all. The lack of reporting leads society to believe that maybe it just isn’t happening to men at all, which is completely false. We have to start believing all survivors, regardless of their gender, so that maybe others like them will be willing to come forward and share their stories.
Gender does not matter when it comes to sexual assault. Sadly, anyone and everyone could be a victim of this crime. It is never a survivor’s fault, and there is nothing they could’ve done to prevent it. Male survivors need to be believed, they need to be heard, and they need to be respected. The more we believe in and acknowledge male survivors the closer we can move towards making a change in lives of all sexual assault survivors.
Penn, Nathaniel. “‘Son, Men Don't Get Raped.’” GQ, GQ, 2 Sept. 2014, www.gq.com/story/male-rape-in-the-military.
“Sexual Assault of Men and Boys.” RAINN | The Nation's Largest Anti-Sexual Violence Organization, RAINN,www.rainn.org/articles/sexual-assault-men-and-boys.
“Information, Resources, & Insights About Male Sexual Abuse & Assault.” 1in6, 1in6.org/get-information/.
“Resources for Male Survivors.” Men Can Stop Rape, www.mencanstoprape.org/Resources/resources-for-male-survivors.html.
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