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#MeToo’s Silent Victim

How Does Toxic Masculinity Prevent Men from Coming forward with their stories and getting their deserved justice?

Content Warning:

Sexual Assault, Rape, Suicide

 

Within the last decade, women have found the courage to speak up with their encounters of being victims to rape. Many of these women take their stories online to social media platforms such as Twitter since their stories will be viewed around the world, allowing females to inspire each other into speaking up as well, creating a sense of empowerment within these women. With all these women coming out with their stories, the #MeToo Movement was created in 2006 by Tarana Burke to raise awareness of sexual assault in society. As the years went on and more people came out with their stories of being victims to rape, the #MeToo Movement developed to the #MeToo Movement in 2017 after the allegations made against Harvey Weinstien, a former American film producer, were made public online.


Photograph of Harvey Weinstien

As inspiring as it is for a woman to share their personal experiences publicly in order to spread awareness on an issue becoming much more prevalent in society, there is a side to the #MeToo Movement that is spoken about rarely: men being victims too. In today’s world, males are slowly becoming more open to discussing their own stories; however, because of how previous generations raised their children to act, there still is a wide belief that men cannot be victims of rape because of the comparison of women and men who come out with sexual assault allegations. RAINN — the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network — an organization created to prevent rape and help victims, states in their report, “Victims of Sexual Voilence: Statistics,” that while men have a 1 out of 10 chance of being sexually assaulted, women are at the higher stake, reaching 1 out of 6 (“Victims of Sexual…”, p. 13). With this alone, many consider men to be at a lower risk therefore being the reason as to why not as many men come out with their stories. However, that is not the sole reason as to why.


A lot of males are raised into toxic masculinity, the idea that there are cultural norms associated with being a male.


Examples as to what toxic masculinity is by using phrases such as:

“Act like a man."
“You hit like a girl.”
"Crying is for girls"

These phrases imply that men are supposed to be stronger than women in all ways — physically, emotionally, and mentally — which eventually turns into the concept of toxic masculinity. By growing up with that mindset, males find themselves having a more difficult time than females realizing their victims stories. Therefore, phrases that support toxic masculinity should be put to an end in order to increase the amount of comfortability in future males while also providing a support system for men nowadays who grew up with the toxic masculinity ideology.


According to RAINN, 70% of sexual assault victims will develop a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. (“Victims of Sexual....”, p. 22). So due to the fact that males already have a difficult time coming out with their stories due to the mindset they grew up in, they have the added weight of a mental illness preventing them from speaking up. Sexual assault is a true tragedy that cannot be reversed, and the repercussions of the event are too; however, the stress of coming out can be at a lower level for males if they developed a mentality that there should not be a difference between male and female’s ability to be emotional. So, for males of future generations in order to set a comfortable atmosphere for males to come forward with their stories crying and expressing emotions/thoughts should be normalized. For the males in today’s generations, there should be more opportunities and situations created for males that way they can see that bottling up their experiences and emotional/mental trauma is not healthy and that there are resources made in order to help them no longer be victims of sexual assault.

In today’s world, the reason women are constantly being put under the spotlight of being these role models for other females to speak up is because of the oppressive nature women have been put through for centuries. Women due to their physical traits are seen as weaker and lesser than a male; therefore, when a woman comes out with their allegations, they are seen as courageous and strong. Since males rarely come out as victims of sexual assault due to emotional and mental traumas that come with toxic masculinity, people rarely acknowledge the fact that men can be victims as well. There are several books published speaking about women being the only victims such as Roxane Gay’s anthology, “Not That Bad.”


Photograph of Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s works have been known to encourage feminist beliefs like women being equal to men, but the unintentional effect of novels such as “Not That Bad,” is that men begin to feel as if they are not welcomed into the #MeToo Movement. “Not That Bad” tells the stories of several women and their sexual assault stories, shedding light on an issue women go through of making their rape experiences lesser than they actually are. Gay’s intent was to encourage women to confront their experiences of rape and not push it down, but she only addresses this to females as a sense of empowerment. As encouraging as it is to women, males need that same motivation to open up with their encounters and not let toxic masculinity shape being a victim as “not that bad.”


Not only are there books published not shedding light on the fact that females and males can be victims, but there are also organizations made with the purpose of avoiding rape for only women. In the New York Times’s article, “Equipping Women to Stop Campus Rape,” published by Tina Rosenburg, an American journalist, she explains how campus’ are beginning to create extracurriculars called “Flip the Switch.” The purpose of this organization is to teach women how to recognize a potential predator and how to get away safely. Throughout her article, she explains the lessons in which women are taught such as the predator is always at fault, women are believed to not resist rape, and begging for freedom does not work (Rosenburg, p.8, p. 17, p.19).

Photograph of Tina Rosenburg

At one point in her editorial, Rosenburg states, “What about teaching men not to rape?... ‘By the time they’re in mid- to late adolescence, their sexual scripts and view of masculinity are pretty fixed,’ said Rory Newlands, a researcher on sexual violence…” (Rosenburg, p. 33). While Rosenburg does acknowledge that men should be taught about rape, she only states that men should be taught how to not rape someone else rather than be taught, like the women, to be safe and protect themselves from being sexually assaulted as well. Women are not the only victims; men can be victims too and deserve the chance to be taught that they can avoid sexual assault. Unfortunately, society still caters mostly to women who were assaulted rather than everyone since we are living in an age where feminism is at its peak.


Like RAINN states, out of 10 males, 1 is sexually assaulted and in an editorial published by Henry Montero, an American therapist whose work is focused on helping those overcome mental traumas, called “Depression in Men: The Cycle of Toxic Masculinity,” Montero shares that during his time working as a therapist, he’s come to the discovery that there are currently 6 million males in the United States who are suffering from a mental illness such as depression due to the effects of toxic masculinity (Montero, p.1). Montero then claims:

“Imagine being a young boy, crying over a painful injury… then being told to ‘man up,’ instead of being.. asked what’s making you cry… When feelings are dismissed and gender-defining thinking is [enforced,] a young person learns to avoid expressing their real feelings… such behavior can lead to... depression” (Montero, p. 11-12).

What this statement is saying is that growing up hearing phrases that reinforce gender norms results in the male growing up believing they have to keep everything they feel in and act like societies’ belief as to what it means to be a man.

With feminism on the rise today, something I have heard many advocates state is that women should not be forced into molds societies’ create; however, that statement is rarely used to encourage males to break out of the way people expect them to act. Owen Jones, a writer for The Guardian, published the article, “Male Rape Survivors Suffer in Silence. We Need to Help Them Talk,” interviewed a man named Callum Hancock who admitted that at the age of 10, he was raped by a bully, going on to explain that as Hancock grew older, he started to experience a rise in damaging thoughts — such as suicide or murder — and took on “manly” things like boxing to suppress the memory of his sexual assault experience (Jones, p. 1-3). Jones states that the reason he used Hancok’s story is to shed light on the fact that men have a harder time coming out with their stories because he did not want to be seen on “weak,” hence why he took on boxing. Jones then says:

“Society drills strict gender norms into boys’ skulls from a very early age: a sense of being ‘strong’ and ‘tough’, of not displaying weakness or vulnerability,”
“When it comes to male rape, gender norms collide with trauma: many survivors feel guilt or shame… wondering if there was some hidden vulnerability that had caused them to be targeted” (Owens, p. 7-8).

Owen explains how toxic masculinity plays a role in why men suppress their experiences, and that men need to be taught how corrupted it is to believe that they cannot be weak, encouraging others to offer support to males as a way to show that it is okay to be vulnerable and weak.


As a woman who has witnessed the effects of sexual assault, I acknowledge the fact that women are most likely to be raped and that it is encouraging to see other females speaking up about their encounters to bring justice to their predators. However, men are victims, too. With the media blowing up the #MeToo Movement, allowing women all across the world to talk about their experiences, has encouraged people to not be afraid as to how society views them. Social media plays an essential role in the current and upcoming generations because more and more people are uncovering the fact that toxic masculinity is a real issue, encouraging people such as @wtinkler3 — or William — on the social media platform Tik Tok, to come out with their experiences with sexual assault as a male.

Screenshot of @wtinkler3's Account

Although this is a big step for a man to be publicly coming out on a social media platform that is very popular right now, there still is much more to be done that way men can begin feeling the same encouragement to come out like women. Coming out with a sexual assault story is not easy for anyone; women as it is have a hard time, but with all the organizations such as “Flip the Switch” and books like “Not That Bad” only catering to women, men find themselves in a situation where they cannot come forth because they would be seen as “lowering themselves” since toxic masculinity shapes a males mind in believing that acting emotional is a feminine thing.

As years go by, generations become more and more liberal and progressive, welcoming people into communities not welcomed before. We can see this in popular social media platforms today where women and men are taking their sexual assault stories online in order to spread awareness. While there are men coming out, the number is still low since toxic masculinity is still a wide issue with males today. Therefore, to encourage males that it is okay to be vulnerable and come out with their stories, there needs to be systems established for males such as “Flip the Switch” that way the organizations seem normal rather than weak to men. Additionally, for all the victims still out there, there should be more therapists who specialize in helping sexual assault victims who are male that way men can feel as if they have the option to get help from someone trained. For the future generations, children should be taught that anyone can be a victim. Crying and showing emotions should be displayed as normal to both girls and boys that way toxic masculinity and gender norms can decrease, resulting in a more open society.


Women have fought for equality for decades and in this time of age are praised for embracing their stories and showing that they have grown from it, but despite men being seen as “superior to females,” they are at a disadvantage when it comes down to emotional control. Growing up, females are taught that it is normal to be sad and cry, but a male is taught that crying is for girls and that to be a man, they have to “be tough.” This way of thinking results in toxic masculinity developing inside a male’s head, eventually affecting their way of thinking for most or all of their lives. Males will grow up in the mindset that it is okay to bottle up everything, and that if they were sexually assaulted, they cannot come out because that would be “weak.” Toxic masculinity hurts men; it corrupts their way of thinking and increases the likelihood of that male developing depression. Therefore, males should be taught that anyone can be a victim and emotions are what makes them human. Men should not be subjected to gender norms; they should be treated as human.


 

Works Cited


Gay, Roxane. Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture. Harper Collins Publishers. 5 Jan. 2018.


Jones, Owen. “Male Rape Survivors Suffer in Silence. We Need to Help Them Talk.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 Jan. 2020, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/16/male-rape-victims-sexual-abuse-support. Accessed 6 May 2020.


Montero, Henry A. “Depression in Men: The Cycle of Toxic Masculinity.” Psycom.net - Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986, Remedy Health Media, 5 Dec. 2018, www.psycom.net/depression-in-men/depression-in-men-toxic-masculinity/. Accessed 6 May 2020.


Rosenberg, Tina. “Equipping Women to Stop Campus Rape.” The New York Times, 30 May 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/05/30/opinion/women-stop-campus-rape.html. Accessed 6 May 2020.


“Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics.” RAINN, www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence. Accessed 6 May 2020.


@wtinkler3. “Pt. 1 I haven’t seen a guy do this, it’s time that men who have been sexually assaulted know they are not alone. #assaultvictim.” Tik Tok. 2 May 2020, www.tiktok.com/@wtinkler3?source=h5_m


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