Damned if they do, damned if they don’t: male and queer survivorship

Anthony Paglia

Boys will NOT be boys.

We live in a society where hyper-masculine behavior is not only excused but praised and encouraged. The phrase “boys will be boys” represents the seedlings of rape culture in its effort to normalize violence and urge young men to be dominant. Yet while such teachings fill boys to the brim with a false ideal of manhood, they additionally create a burden for male-identifying people to dissociate themselves from softness and sensitivity.

Due to these crippling expectations, many male survivors of sexual misconduct find themselves between a rock and a hard place; the rock being widespread disapproval if they seek resources and the hard place being the trouble of facing the aftermath of abuse.

We as a human race must airlift these individuals out of this compromising position. This involves debunking and combating the many myths that work as obstacles for men seeking aid medically, legally or emotionally after sexual misconduct.

The Menacing Myths

Boys and men can’t be victims and shouldn’t label themselves as such.

One of out of every 10 men is a victim of sexual assault and 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18. Men may be pressured by societal stereotypes to name themselves “survivors” as opposed to “victims.” It is important to recognize that an individual should be in complete control of the language they use in reference to their assault, with others mirroring the words they use.

Men are less traumatized by abuse than women and are better able to protect themselves.

Society expects men to cope with hardship on their own which may result in increased trauma. Many male survivors may feel terrorized by the fact that they were unable to defend or protect themselves from an attack, even when multiple perpetrators were involved (which is often the case). Additionally, many male survivors may feel guilty for submitting to an act out of fear of injury or death; it is important to remind survivors that submission does not equate consent and whatever the survivor did to minimize the duration and brutality of the situation was the right choice.

A male erection or orgasm from abuse signals enjoyment and willingness to participate.

Some men may experience an erection and/or ejaculation during a sexual assault, but these responses are solely involuntary reactions to stimulation. Uncontrolled bodily responses (erections/ejaculation, sneezes, yawns, etc.) can still occur under extreme stress and fear. An erection alone never equals consent. When aiding a male survivor, it is important to highlight that perpetrators of sexual violence are motivated by power, control and asserting authority as opposed to sexual pleasure.

Gayness and sexual assault are closely associated.

Heterosexual male survivors may believe that the assault, despite the gender identity of their perpetrator, means that he is or will become homosexual. When helping a male survivor, emphasize that sexual assault in no form changes or modifies sexual orientation. In conjunction, the majority of child molesters who abuse boys do not identify as gay, dispelling the claim that those who sexually assault males are primarily gay men.

The Additional Boulder

Men who are gay or bisexual are often targets of sexual violence because of who they are. In some cases, attackers target these individuals as a means of “correcting their deviant behavior,” often referred to as corrective rape; such attacks are also categorized as hate crimes. Queer men suffer many of the same anguishes and face many similar obstacles that straight men do with a few important additions and differences.

The survivor may feel as though they are to blame for the assault solely because of their sexual orientation. A gay or bisexual male survivor may feel additionally traumatized if a woman sexually assaults him or if the assault includes acts that he is unfamiliar with. Additionally, he may express concern that the LGBTQIA community will question or speculate his queer identity after exposure to a heterosexual act. Along with in-group resistance, many survivors may be insensitively treated with heightened suspicion, disrespect or disregard at the institutional level (hospitals, police stations, other legal personnel, etc.).

Carving Out a Better World

Fighting false ideas of manhood and recognizing that diversity among men should be celebrated is imperative in diminishing the damaging culture that prevents male victims of abuse from seeking beneficial support during difficult times.

So grab your chisels and pull up your bootstraps, it’s about time we chipped away at this rock together.


References

When the Survivor is Male. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.rapevictimadvocates.org/male.asp

Myths and Facts about Male Survivors. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.rapevictimadvocates.org/PDF/MythsFactsMaleSurvivors.pdf

Male Sexual Victimization Myths & Facts (2007). Retrieved from http://www.malesurvivor.org/myths.html

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