As a society, we have this stereotypical image of who and what a sexual abuse should be. It usually goes along the lines of a vulnerable young female who cannot fend for herself. But we have long denied males their victim status, as they are viewed as too strong, and their sexuality to dominant for them to be reduced to abuse. However, male victimhood of abuse is a real problem too, and dangerous to ignore.
BoredPanda.com created a piece compiling messages from over 60 men, recounting their experiences of abuse, mostly as young children. It also displayed comments made by their abusers, and even those close to them, saying that they ‘should have enjoyed it’. One in particular was told by his former fiancé to simply ‘man up’ while having a panic attack brought on by memory of the abuse.
In 2014 there were 78,000 rape/attempted rape victims (let alone sexual abuse generally), 9,000 of which were males, according to Ministry of Justice figures. And many more go unreported.
Men are indoctrinated from childhood with the belief that they must be tough, so are treated as though they are weak if they admit their pain. There is also a ‘lad’ culture prevalent within society, which allows for a man has multiple sexual partners within a short space of time and be praised for it, such behaviour being considered a goal for other men to aspire toward. So much so that when a man admits he has been sexually abused, a lot of people will say he should consider himself ‘lucky’ as though it’s part of this line of ‘achievement’. This attitude can hinder men from healing, as a large part of getting over any form of abuse is having it acknowledged for what it is. It is unfortunate that we have normalised men as sexual beings, to the extent that sexual abuse against them is normalised and considered pleasure.
This indoctrination of men to believe that they need to be tough at all times and hide their feelings is one of the main reasons that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 in the UK. This is such a backward view of masculinity. True masculinity and strength should lie in men being able to show vulnerability and speak about their weakest moments so that they can gain help and become strong again.
The Telegraph acknowledged the need for support of male victims in a 2015 article, the tagline of which was “It was supposed to be a sign that sexual violence against men was being taken seriously”. They wrote that the Government male support fund which had been running for just over a year was now not able to support many clients with face-to-face counselling due to a handover in funding powers to the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) who discontinued funding for the service, which was clearly an important aspect of recovery for the victims. If government agencies are not providing the means for this issue to be dealt with seriously, how much more can we expect of members of society to treat it seriously?
We must change the way we view masculinity. The ability to be vulnerable and admit weakness does not make men less masculine. It, in fact, should be included in our definition of ‘masculinity’, as the strength of our minds is just as important – if not more so – as our physical strength.
I believe we should encourage men to allow vulnerability, and become tuned in to their emotions so that this terrible epidemic does not keep killing them in the dark.
Written by Moyo Owoseni-Lawal