TW: mentions of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and their aftermaths.
I was going to start this how I think we’re used to seeing it. An attempt to shed light on how much of an issue sexual assault is in our society. An attempt to convey that this is serious, and that we need to talk about it. The thing is, though, that doesn’t always work. Not because the cause isn’t true – it 100% is – but I think it’s simply that we no longer view this as a human problem; we view it as some large scale occurrence. In the same sense that Stalin so famously said that a single death is a tragedy whereas a million deaths is a statistic, it’s time we remember the core of the problem – that it’s not just a statistic. It’s not some number to analyse – it’s a human life. A life just as detailed and complex as your own, and as that of each and every person you know, as well as each and every person you don’t. So remember, above all else, that this is personal.
It can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter your gender, the way you look, what you’re wearing; it’s all beside the point. But for today, we’re going to be addressing how it is in particular when a male is sexually harassed or assaulted, because as with most things male-related, we often don’t touch enough on how one might feel, or how one’s mental health might be impacted, and that needs to change.
What was the situation in which you had this experience and was the assaulter a male or a female?
1- Catcalled and verbally harassed in the street for having long hair, asked whether he’s a guy or a girl. “Matgeeb el wad da men sha3ro.” Male.
2, 3, 4- Assaulted in the offender’s apartment, in a mosque and in a car. All males.
5- Groped in a club while talking to the assaulter’s friend. Female.
4 out of 5 males have suffered from some form of sexual assault from males, and 1 from a female. It’s needless to say, as well, that the location might not matter as much as one might initially believe.
How did you react, and did you have a reaction in mind that didn’t seem appropriate solely due to the fact that the assaulter was potentially a female?
1- “I never react to them, I just try to walk faster”
2, 3, 4- Freezing and doing nothing. Too young and unaware what should be done. This only goes to show how this kind of harassment is especially prominent where predators target young boys, but that’s for sure not where this ends either.
5- Trying to take it lightly and joke about it. Obviously can’t do the same to her as she did to me. Can’t exactly go complain to the security guards either; it doesn’t work like that. Ended up not doing anything.
How did you feel after this incident?
1- “Frustrated, victimised, defeated”
2- “I was confused and scared initially. But then after many years, I realized what had happened and I had attempted suicide because of it.”
3- “Years after I realized what actually happened I felt angry at him and felt horrible and traumatized. I was uncomfortable in my own body because of something he did.”
4- “Triggered and violated”
5- Not upset so much as just being angry and frustrated. Wanting to somehow make her understand how stupid and meaningless what she was doing was, but couldn’t.
“I didn’t feel powerless in the situation; she can’t harm me in anyway, and that’s why it didn’t feel like a big issue for me.”
Not feeling bad about himself, part of himself even feeling a bit a bit flattered. Still angry.
Were you comfortable telling anyone about what happened? Were you afraid of being made fun of for taking it seriously if you did?
1- “I could only tell select people who I know wouldn’t make fun or victim-blame, a lot of people I know would just tell me to cut my hair to make me look more ‘manly.’ “
2- “I never told anyone what happened. I’m too scared to.”
3- “No one took me seriously as a kid so I never had the courage to bring it up after I grew up.”
4- “Have never mentioned it to anyone to date.”
5- “Not exactly comfortable, mainly because it was a girl. The situation wasn’t harmful per se, and was kind of funny so I told my close friends, but it’s not something I’d just go and talk about.”
Whether or not these questions and answers have left you surprised, I’m at least certain they’ve made you aware that males being sexually assaulted is a real issue, which we can no longer deny batting an eye to. Sometimes it leaves people with trauma they’ve had to deal with throughout their entire lives, and sometimes it only fuels their anger and frustration, but helps shed light on how differently we view certain forms of sexual harassment when it’s done by a female, not a male. This is only the beginning of a long, necessary discussion – one that we’re done running away from, and all that we ask is one thing; talk about it. If not with anyone, then at least with yourself. Sit down for 5 minutes and genuinely discuss this in your head – try to figure out where the problem might be and what could be done to fix it. The first step needs to be acknowledging how big of a deal this is, and forming an opinion about it.
Let this be the year we end passive activism. Where we end having opinions but letting them just be that, because we know they’re not going to get us anywhere other than a place of mental satisfaction for feeling like we somehow contributed by conjuring a thought. Think of solutions. Start a discussion. Read on the matter and find out more about it.
And on this journey of actually trying to take action, never forget why you’re doing this. Yes, it’s because this is a terrible problem that needs to be solved. Yes, it’s because this is what you owe to making this world an ever so slightly better place. But above all else, remember, that this is personal.