The Men's Perspective
As women are struggling to gain more rights and finding their places in society, so are the men. Men themselves face many issues which the society is unaware of or does not value equally as with "women problems". Certainly, society is not as sympathetic to men as it is to women. Therefore, in this article, our aim is to create awareness by touching on the problems which men in our society face today. Firstly, we will give a brief summary of the issues men face. After which, we will provide a deeper discussion on a particular problem - sexual assaults on men. This is chosen as "rape" is often associated with women and people would just shun or laugh at a man being "raped". We have chosen this struggle as it is personal issue (to men) and so severely under-represented that we believe it needs to get more attention.
"Men and boys are often reluctant to reveal their symptoms because of embarrassment and shame"- Katharine Philips and David Castle, Researchers
Men have such a wide array of problems that it does not really differ greatly from women issues. However, many of these problems are under-represented, lack in sufficient credible research and certainly, under-highlighted in our societies today. They include a full range - from emotional and psychological to social struggles; educational to health problems to even lifelong problems. Other than the familiar sexual problems, men also suffer from body image disorders too. For one, they feel that the workplace is becoming more unequal to them because as women gain higher status in society, many men feel that the law is so protective of the other sex that they seldom comment on gender issues for fear of accusation of harassment. Generally, child custody and property settlement laws for divorce swing in slight favour to women. A cross-section of developed countries shows that women generally outlive men and on top of that, suffer lesser chronic diseases and ailments as compared to men.
Many recent researchers have found out that men are growingly experiencing such problems due to insufficient support and the lack of a fatherly figure. Many mothers do not understand that boys' natural or even once highly regarded characteristics of aggression and activeness are not freely developed as they are deemed as "childish, hyperactive and rough". Almost half of American families have children growing up with fathers absent from their lives. Boys need fathers for them to model after. This is why we see a greater increase of juvenile crimes committed by boys as compared to girls. We also see similar trends happening to the drop-out levels of boys attending school. Boys suffer more from anger management and "pride" issues because they do not have a healthy outlet or environment to cope with their many difficulties in life. Due to this, many turn to drug abuse, domestic violence and alcoholism or even sink into depression. It does not help that society is "apathetic" and men do not want to come forward to seek and receive aid.
Case Study: Sexual Assaults on Men
"All sexual assault is an act of aggression, regardless of the gender or age of the victim or the assailant. Neither sexual desire nor sexual deprivation is the primary motivating force behind sexual assault. It is not about sexual gratification, but rather a sexual aggressor using somebody else as a means of expressing their own power and control."- Nicholas Groth, a clinical psychologist and author of Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender
The term "rape" is gender biased. Therefore, the term "sexual assault" is increasingly being used by counsellors and police officers. A considerable amount of literature has been done on sexual assaults on female; society pays a lot of attention to it as well. However, unlike sexual assaults on females, sexual assaults on males are extremely under-represented and lacking in research. This stems from two main reasons- male victims do not dare to press charges and society is unsupportive as well.
With the limited research done on it, we see similar experiences faced by female victims such as guilt, emotional stress, strong sense of vulnerability, suicidal tendencies and emotional distancing etc. Regardless of sex or gender, any form of sexual assault has such a traumatising impact that the victim does not dare to bring up the crime and press charges. Men are so afraid to report any sexual assaults on them that some criminals sexually assault their victims to prevent them from reporting. Also, a majority of male victims refuse to report any sexual assaults of them for fear of suspicion of their sexual orientations (i.e. tendency towards homosexuality).
Male victims feel even more distressed if they choose to press charges as society and even family and friends are unsupportive. Many people still believe that that the fact that the male had been sexually aroused and had ejaculated, he could not be "victimised". In fact, he could have enjoyed the process. But the true is, with or without consent, sexual arousal and ejaculation are involuntary psychological processes which the victim cannot be in control of. Society at large also feels that men are able to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted. If the criminal is a woman and a mother, the man feels even more ashamed, humiliated and weak. "Many men and women have said that the abuse by their mothers was the most shameful and damaging form of childhood victimization that they experienced". (Elliott, 1993, pg. 21)
"Male rape" does not only happen in prisons. 10 to 20% of all males will be sexually violated at some point in their lives and that one in every ten rape victims is male. There were approximately 4,890 rapes of males age 12 and over in the United States in 1994. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997). At this point, we would like to touch on marital rape or intimate partner sexual assault (IPSA). IPSA is still a widely debated issue in many parts of the world. Less than 20 countries legally accept that IPSA is possible. Most if not all of these laws believe that the wives are the victims and the husbands are the aggressors or even criminals here. Even though this is most often the case and there is certainly some truth in this, we cannot deny the fact that the laws are biased against the men and the roles can be reversed with men as the victims and women as the aggressors.
Certainly, sexual assaults should be blinded to sex and gender. Society needs to understand that "rape" is not a "female thing". Hopefully, through this article, we have surfaced some issues which men face these days and hopefully through this case study, we have shown that societal attitudes are crucial in shaping everyone's lives. Thus, equivalent attention and support should be given to both sexes if they ever need so. This should not just come from a strand of the Men's Movement or a Feminist activist group but from the whole of society itself. Of course, men and boys have to put aside the feelings of shame and embarrassment to help themselves by allowing others to help them too.