Two simple words have become a kindling cry: #MeToo. This trend took off when sexual allegations against Hollywood personage Harvey Weinstein came to light. I was grateful that there were many who were courageous enough to voice their own experiences and accounts on behalf of those who still struggled to share their own. But as I read certain articles and took part in discussions amongst my peers, I couldn’t help but notice a significantly unheard and unrepresented faction: the men.
When sexual assault is spoken of, it is usually the accounts of women that are heard and men are typically grouped into and generalized as a faction of predators. It made me ask myself the oft-forgotten questions: “Do men experience sexual assault too?” Why the silence on the part of our brothers when, in reality, one out of ten rape victims are men?
As I sought to hear the opinions of some of the respected men in my life in regard to this particular affair, I was overwhelmingly aghast by the revelations I acquired. Sexual assault is not a foreign struggle nor one that only women endure. Male sexual assault is prevalent but has consequentially been encompassed in secrecy and as a mark of disgrace. In a culture that claims to prize openness and equal consideration for all experiences, few men who are sexually assaulted, as in locker-rooms or prisons, feel comfortable enough to open up. The idea of masculinity as stoicism and invulnerability persists, even though this leads not to healthy relationships but to festering emotional wounds and apathy.
Of course, women comprise the overwhelming majority of rape victims and despite the progress made many still don’t receive the recognition they deserve, but the irony of the our culture is this: we believe that the assault is never the victim’s fault yet we often only empathize with sexually assaulted women and disregard the accounts of men who have experienced the same. Perhaps we are quick to brush it off because men have usually been the perpetrators rather than the victims. Rape survivors everywhere find it difficult to have their story believed and are often told it is a consequence of their own actions. In some ways, however, I believe men have it harder because they are conditioned not to show weakness. As a generation that seeks equality amid both genders, it’s time for us to seek to protect men as well.
Nothing showcases this better than the story of Anthony Rapp, who recently told his story of sexual assault while on set with Kevin Spacey, who stars in House of Cards. Rapp explained that the event had taken place when he was a teenager, placing the crime over three decades in the past. But it is on only on the heels of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein that Rapp felt the time was right and that he would be heard and listened to. It begs the question whether Spacey might have been able to get away with it had the circumstances been different. In another instance, 245 pound, 6’ 3”, ex-NFL player Terry Crews, known for his roles in Everybody Hates Chris, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Old Spice commercials, actively spoke out on his own sexual harassment at the height of the #MeToo twitter movement. In his tweets he described that at a function he attended with his wife, a Hollywood executive groped him. And yet while confronting the perpetrator, he decided to stay silent, stating on Twitter that “I decided not to take it further because I didn't want to be ostracized—par for the course when the predator has power and influence.” Notably, if one man like Terry Crews was afraid of the repercussions of an early confession, how much moreso with the countless number of women who are more prone to these perverse actions? These men, whose examples and experiences, show that the prevalence of sexual harassment is not only targeted towards women. It also reveals the darker implications of power and sexuality underlying longstanding ideologies of masculinity and status.
It seems that nearly every week now a star falls. Much ink has been spilled relating their terrible deeds and the scarring stories, but will change come out of it? Certainly many celebrities have skeletons lingering in their closets, and an atmosphere of fear of discovery lingers around Hollywood. But no amount of writing or education can remove stigma and prejudice. Instead, we as individuals must consider our own understanding of masculinity, especially on an Adventist campus. The power dynamics of Hollywood inform a greater conversation on power perceptions in the idea of masculinity. However, Scripture informs us that a proper understanding of masculinity and femininity are all contingent on a knowledge of Christ and that in a community of believers, one such as Andrews, no form of suffering should be left unattended to. Suffering does not always reflect on the character of the sufferer, but on the reality of a sinful world.
Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved November 05, 2017, from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence