All throughout history people have been fighting to be seen as equal to each other. Whether it is between men and women, or between the races, humans have always struggled to find a common ground among us all. American society has always struggled against racism and sexism; however, we need to bring attention to the unspoken side of sexism to give men a voice while they struggle to find closure after suffering through sexual assault, homophobia, and the aftermath of abuse.
In recent years, the issue of sexual abuse has become more prominent. The normalization of sexual assault has brought with it the dangerous effects of rape culture. This horrible mentality is constantly broadcasted in songs and movies without a thought, this shows the acceptance of abuse and its consequences. Many have come to accept the now common excuse to this crime. “It couldn’t have happened because surely if it had someone would have said something at the time.” Due to this survivors who come forward are harassed and blamed for not keeping their mouths shut. The hostility that most brave survivors of sexual assault face for speaking out has vastly discouraged other victims from speaking up. (Grady) Both male and female survivors face this terrible backlash, but unfortunately for men they often have it even worse than women. Sexism and rape as a whole is primarily seen as a female issue. Male victims are often overlooked and not taken seriously when voicing their distress. Survivors feel helpless and frustrated due to this. (Friedersdorf)
In order to properly acknowledge male survivors we must eliminate the myths surrounding their assault. Such as the myth that men can not be sexually assaulted. The extent to which men are sexually assaulted is difficult to determine due to the fact that so little men speak up. Those who do find their voice are many times ignored or mistreated, but fortunately for actor and ex-footballer player, Terry Crews, his large following helped keep his voice afloat. Crews took a stand on twitter after many accusations were brought up against Film producer Harvey Weinstein. Crews said he was promoted to share his story in the wake of the ongoing Harvey Weinstein scandal. “This whole thing with Harvey Weinstein is giving me PTSD. Why? Because this kind of thing happen to me,” he wrote. (Mumford) He went on to describe how a “high level Hollywood executive” had groped him at a party the previous year. He later went on to publicly identify that executive as Adam Venit. (Victor) Crews described how Venit had groped his genitals in front of wife at an industry function. When Crews pushed the man off of him the only response he received was laughter. The actor said he was tempted to further retaliate but was afraid of being ostracised due to Venit being a powerful and influential executive. After Crews spoke out he said he hopes that his publizing his experience would deter a predator and encourage those victims who feel hopeless. (Mumford) Situations such as these and even more serious ones are easily forgotten and erased, but with movements such as #MeToo more people have chosen to speak up. If we could only continue the opportunities for victims to publicize their experiences those who feel they do not have a voice will hopefully find it amongst their pain.
Other myths that are embedded in the minds of many Americans is are that only gay men are sexually assaulted, and only gay men assault other men. These myths add harmful biases against those who have been hurt. Many do not not want to address it because there is so much denial around abuse happening to men. (Edelhart) The truth is that men can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, appearance, or sexual orientation. Your sexuality has no more to do with being raped than being robbed. Rape survivor, Gabe Wright, fights to spread his message that rape can happen to anyone at anytime: male, female, straight, or gay. “It is nothing about gender or sexuality,” he said. “It’s just about power and control” (Masterson) As for the second myth the reality of it is that most men who sexually assault other men identify themselves as heterosexual. This fact helps highlight a previous point. Sexual assault is about violence, anger, and control over another person, not just lust or sexual attraction. (5)
Many victims fear how their sexual orientations may be perceived after speaking out if the perpetrator was also a male. Victims often end up spiraling into depression and confusion as they question their sexuality after going through assault. Homophobia and gay stereotypes may affect whether the victim publizes his assault. LGBTQ men are often times victim blamed. Because of their sexuality people will claim that the assault was actually consensual and that they are simply seeking attention by accusing the perpetrator. Homophobia can be used by the attacker in order to silence their victims. The attacker could be committing sexual assault as a hate crime know as corrective rape. Corrective rape occurs when a perpetrator assaults their victim in order to “cure” or “fix” them if they are part of the LGBTQ community. They could also threaten to out the victims if they decide to speak out against them. Some go as far to say that they deserved to be raped because of what they identify as. (Umich) The myths add onto the homophobia by painting non-straight men as weak and dangerous. Queer men can even end up developing self-loathing attached to their sexuality.
Because society expects men to be in control it is difficult for it to accept men as victims. The emotional needs of male victims are largely ignored, but if a man reacts as something more emotional than what society accepts they can be seen as less. (Umich) No matter how it occurs, sexual assault can having lasting emotional consequences. Victims constantly question themselves and the situation. Beliefs about manliness and masculinity are deeply ingrained in society and can lead to intense feelings of inadequacy for the male survivor. (5) Shame, guilt, and anxiety lead to questions such as: Is there something wrong with me, could I have stopped it, will people find out, do they already know? Survivors see their assault as a loss of manhood because they think that they failed to defend themselves. (Edelhart) Many put themselves into a John Wayne mentality. If something bad happens to you, just walk it off and do not acknowledge it to yourself or anyone. (NYPost) Victims suffer mental illnesses like PTSD and depression. For most men the idea of being a victim is very hard to handle. Men break off any forms of relationships they have and isolate themselves. Many drown in the world of drugs and alcohol, and become more violence, causing harm to themselves and others. (5)
The weight of sexual assault is a difficult one to bare. The majority of victims struggle to get their feet back onto steady ground after an attack. It is important to understand that people may not be able to function at 100% capacity for a while after following a major trauma like sexual assault. Survivors need to recover emotionally and physically. Talking about the assault has been proven to vastly effect how well victims recover, but unfortunately, the stigma placed around male sexual assault victims has dramatically stunted their voice. They will have to deal with their feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over their life. (5) For many some of their smallest steps in recovery will be extremely difficult, but by far the hardest part will be speaking up. This is why it is important to give males a greater opportunity to speak out against the violent committed against them. This will force society to open its eyes and become more accepting of male victims to help get them the help they deserve. The more men raise their voices the more others will be encouraged to do the same,and to eventually eliminate the stigma held around them.
America is a place of great development, but there are many topics that we are very slow to change. Men should not be forced to silence themselves and feel ashamed of what has been done to them. Just like female victims they deserve to be seen and receive closure. We have been battling against major issues like racism and sexism for as long as the United States has been a country. Many changes and outstanding achievements have been accomplished in the 21st century as people keep evolving. We must now focus on the unspoken side of sexism to help men find their voices in the middle of one of the most change producing times in our history. By being more open and understanding we can keep their stories and voices from being buried.