I’m amazed at the power of the #metoo tag on Facebook and Twitter to reveal how many women have been exposed to sexual harassment or worse in their lives. It was sobering to see so many women I know reveal on Facebook they have received some kind of sexually abusive action at some point in their pasts. If the #metoo tag doesn’t exactly reveal the depth of the abusive behavior, it certainly shows us the breadth of such activities in society.
While I was happy to see so much action taken on the part of women to reveal sexual harassment and abuse in their lives, there was one thing largely missing from this campaign—men.
The number of men I knew using the tag was exactly two. I’m not keeping track of how many female vs. male friends I have on Facebook, but it’s clear men had hardly used this tag considering their numbers. It could be very few men use Facebook or Twitter, or few men face of sexually abusive situations in their lives, but I doubt it. I personally know of a male relative who was sexually abused as a child. I also have a friend from high school who told me he was sexually abused as a child and I met a guy in college told me he had been raped by a man. It could be I just run in circles with the few guys who have been sexually abused, but I don’t think it likely.
Studies tell us that three out of ten girls are sexually abused as children, but they also say two out of ten boys are, too. If only two out of ten girls rather than three had been sexually abused as children, women’s groups would be no less serious about confronting it. And, it would not be any comfort to a male victim of sexual abuse to tell him he’s lucky because only two out of ten boys have been abused compared to three out of ten girls.
Of the two men I spotted using the #metoo tag, one of them mentioned a group of drunk women in a bar making unwanted passes at him and wanted to know if this was sexual harassment. To me, it’s significant he even had to ask. If a group of drunk guys make passes at a woman in a bar, it’s accepted as sexual harassment no questions asked. I had an incident in elementary school where a boy bumped me from behind and ground the part of his pants that covered his penis into my rear, then said, “You’re pregnant now.” I’m sure he was acting out something about human reproduction he had just learned, but I felt humiliated. If a boy had done this to a girl in today’s society, it would have been definite sexual harassment. So why didn’t I use the #metoo tag? Honestly, I wasn’t ready to bring it out to the whole world. While it’s hard enough to get women to admit to experiencing sexual harassment in their lives, it’s even harder for men. There’s this dynamic in our society that if you’re a man, you’re supposed to “take it.” If you can’t, you’re a sissy or a faggot. The tendency for a man is to suppress any offences and go on as if it never happened.
I believe the standard should be, if an activity would be considered sexual harassment if it happened to a women, it’s also sexual harassment if it happens to a man. I also believe there are many more such incidents happening to men than we are popularly aware of. Maybe there should be a #mentoo tag. Perhaps there is, but I am not aware of it. While a lot of attention has recently been given to female victims, we’re still very lacking in addressing the same issues for men. Sexual abuse should not be considered a women’s issue. It should be considered a people’s issue.