I was recently shown a wonderful post written by a man named Steve, a survivor of sexual abuse, on the seldom talked about issue of what it is like for men to deal with sexual abuse and gender expectations. It’s long but eye opening and well worth the read:
“Let’s start by making a list of what it means to be a man.
A man is strong
HE does not cry
HE can take care of himself
HE does not need support
HE is one of the boys
HE is a heterosexual who will take a wife and raise a family
When everything is falling apart a man WILL be strong for his family
A man can defend himself.
This list comes from society It is in our movies, our books and it can be seen on every street corner When was the last time you saw a hero loose a fight? That just doesn’t happen. I am not talking about the very masculine loose a fight, go and train and then defeat the enemy as happens in just about every Jean Claude Van Damme or Stephen Seagull movie. Simply when was the last time a hero got smeared and couldn’t rebound from it? It never happens does it!
This image of a “true” man is pounded into us daily. It gets even better, when was the last time you saw a Bruce Lee movie where he fought less than 5 assailants? Judging from these movies everyday Guys have this ability. How about Arnold Schwarzenegger portraying a fire-fighter who loses his family to terrorists and then singlehandedly takes on and defeats the Terrorist cell responsible? Who do you know who has such resolve or ability?
Unfortunately people watching these movies which often depict “Everyday” people gain the expectation that they can or should be able to do likewise.
The truth of the matter is very different. Watch that Brice Lee movie, even when he fights 40 assailants in the big boss, he really only does it one at a time with a nice warning scream as they rush in to attack. In real life that same fight would be a crowd all throwing punches at once and even the great Lee would founder.
Let’s look at Media such as the news. How often do you hear about someone doing something great like saving a live or running off burglars? How often do they comment along the lines of, “I was just doing what anyone else would do “This expectation again places impossible expectations on Boys because after all, they want to be like that.
In the playground these boys compete, not for runs in a cricket match but for the honour of playing for Australia in the ashes. Every run in that lunch time game is proof that he is superior to the boys around and that he has more of a right to play for his Country. It is this issue, fuelled by “proud” parents, which drives the expectation to be perfect in every way.
How often do you hear a parent comment to their son that it was a massive stack and that they are rightfully hurt? I wager never, regardless of the severity. More likely they will say something like “Come on it is over now”, “Big boys don’t cry” and even that old chestnut about getting right back on. Often getting back on is really important but sometimes it is really harmful too. What this approach does is invalidate any fears the boy has regardless of how reasonable they are.
From all these, the boy learns that to be scared is not acceptable, to cry is weak and to do anything less than suck it up and carry on is unmanly.
SO what then happens when for some reason the boy finds that he is unable to do so? Well as per usual he has his peers to point out how weak he is. Take being afraid of the dark for instance. We all know that it is an illogical fear based on paranoia and a healthy imagination. But what about those boys with a valid reason for being afraid of the dark? If their peers discover this there will be teasing and chastising for the weakness (even if the person doing the teasing secretly agrees).
What does this mean? It means that the boy learns that he needs to hide his fears from anyone. This once learned easily transfers to other things. If he loses a swimming race there are a bunch of reasons why he did so, “I didn’t hear the gun”, “I thought it was only a 25 meter race”, “You started early”. Never, or very rarely will the boy simply say, “You are faster and I couldn’t keep up”
That would be to admit defeat and “boys/ men” don’t do that. This can be seen when a young boy tries to beat his older brother at a sport. He throws his all at the attempt, it doesn’t matter that he is outclassed; he tries to win again and again.
Compounded by mother standing on the sidelines telling their little boy how he is a big boy and big boys can do this or that. The 7 YO looks at the 14 YO’s and thinks, “They are big boys, I am a big boy, and I can do what those big boys can do”
Whilst some measure of this is healthy to the growth and achievement of the younger boy it can also be very detrimental and is often used against the boy.
How does this all work to get boys raped?
Simply it builds a platform for the perpetrator to start from. Remember Boys are meant to be daring, willing to step up and not afraid of anything.
If a perp plays a game of Dare with the boy then the boy’s honour will trap him. If the perp asks him to do something and comments that he is scared then again the boy’s ego will step in as it is better to be hurt than to be a coward.
When this is all over the boy is doubly trapped because he knows what happened was bad, he might even think it was his fault. The best recourse is to shut up and not let anyone find out so that
A. He doesn’t get into any trouble and
B. B no one finds out how “Naughty”, “Weak” or “Gay” he is.
Add to this the compounding of a body that very visibly reacts to the touch, even if painful or not wanted, and you get to the self blame that he “wanted” it. This is confirmed by the “fact” that “ALL” boys can defend themselves so therefore if he didn’t want to do it the he would have been able to stop it. Snap go the steel jaws of the trap! Now the boy thinks he wanted the abuse and well that makes him less than a man so he must hide that fact too. Often the boy will look up to his abuser as the man who he wants to be like. This isn’t logical but it does happen. The boy tries to be a man by being with a “Real” man and doing what that “Real Man” wants in the hope that his manliness will rub off.
IN the case of a female abuser, the boy, through countless societal messages thinks that he is doing something truly manly by “Conquering” an older woman. This is seen again in the media when, “A sex fiend was Gaoled today for molesting, raping, abusing etc”
Whenever it is a male perp it is an evil event but when it is a female perp, the reporting is different, “A female teacher was gaoled today for having sexual relations with a male student.”
Puts a different slant on it doesn’t it? The report will go on to mentioning seduction instead of grooming, sex instead of molestation.
I ask again what hope does the boy have?
Then there is the movement to “Teach” boys not to rape
Now I will never condone rape or sexual violence of any type but as U2 said in Bullet in the blue sky, “Plant a demon seed. Raise a flower on fire”
If you want to teach anyone not to rape then that teaching starts with their upbringing and not in some course later on. But why is it only Boys who need to be taught not to rape and why is it only Rape perpetrated against women? Is it therefore ok for a guy to be raped? Or for a woman to rape a boy?
Wouldn’t it just be better to teach people to respect other people, doesn’t that fix so many more problems? Doesn’t that also address the spectre of Male victims and female perpetrators?”