By Marcus Corrigan
The month of April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). In 2020, despite several campaigns to support the movement, I still continue to learn of (and unfortunately witness) these issues continuing.
There are numerous statistics that unfortunately affirm the prevalence of sexual assault within our society – indeed, there is a silent majority who have encountered or suffered from the problem at some point in life. However, this article is built purely on my own testimonial accounts of witnessing and knowing of such issues at play.
Over the course of my adolescence, I’ve spent much time with my female friends. As the years went by, we enjoyed various tipsy evenings in the bonnie city of Edinburgh. Unfortunately, upon almost every occasion, the girls were met with unwanted attention.
Before I continue, the issue of sexual harassment (SH) and assault (SA) amongst men will be discussed later – these issues are not gender specific.
Throughout the course of these evenings, my friends would often be met with sexual advances of varying degree. On some occasions, advances were welcomed – others were not. As for the latter, I can give credit to those that ‘shoot their shot’ in a respectful manner but politely move on when they were met with no avail.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Plenty of men, especially when under the influence, do not take kindly to rejection. There are varying extents as to how such ‘men’ may act following rejection, as there are equally ‘reasons’ for such action.
A common occurrence is unwanted persistence which, from my knowledge, usually derives from a ‘she’s playing hard to get’ mentality. Although the ‘hard to get’ game does exist (as I’m sure several women will agree), it is often used as a means of excusing unwanted persistence when no such ‘game’ is being played. If a man is met with an explicit ‘no’, or implicit body language that communicates that same message, or especially if someone is told to desist by her friends, ask yourself: why are you bothering? Now, you’re truly framing yourself in a terrible light. You are now being brandished as creepy, forceful, and worst of all, intimidating.
A common misconception amongst men is that by approaching women with compassion and respect, their ‘game’ is weakened. This is simply untrue. ‘Game’ should not consist of obnoxious arrogance and the inappropriate initiation of touching. It is wholly possible to get attention respectfully.
As for males who are or have been victims of SH/SA, this is where a large proportion of the silent majority lies. Anyone – regardless of age, gender and socioeconomic status – is robbed of their personal integrity when they are a victim of SH/SA. Any crime of this nature is undoubtedly depraved. Given the stereotyped properties of masculinity – for example the instinct to be ‘dominant’ – the issue, from my anecdotal learning, is that males often suffer from a severe identity crisis that undermines the perceived essence of their being as a result of the humiliation of SH/SA.
Not to suggest that this is not also the case for women – quite the opposite. My point is that society views women as the ‘most vulnerable’ of the two genders in respect to SH/SA crimes, whereas men are at a biological advantage to their female counterparts in ‘defending’ or ‘preventing’ themselves from SH/SA. This is not the case – not all men can ‘defend’ themselves, for many reasons.
This toxic approach to the topic also means that men feel they can never discuss their SH/SA – they will never ‘reach out’, trauma is internalized, slowly undermining and decaying their entire sense of self. Unfortunately, the ‘man up’ mentality maintains prevalence in the modern day. Men are encouraged to repress pain and are under the impression that they will be met with less compassion, empathy, and understanding than women when it comes to their suffering.
I myself subscribe to a pseudo ‘man up’ mentality, yet not to the detriment of one’s wellbeing. I do encourage men that wish to conform to ideologies of masculinity to rightfully endeavour to develop their self-confidence and emotional strength amongst other traits. However, those who do follow this ideology should not be expected to be physically, and especially emotionally, invincible.
I strongly encourage any male who is or has been a victim of SH/SA, and is struggling to cope as a consequence, to please seek help. I have counselled a number of men who have struggled to come to terms with varying degrees of SH/SA who have been reluctant to seek help for many reasons. I promise it does not make you ‘less of a man’: everyone is human.
(In further recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, for my mother’s close friend’s charity – Moira Anderson Foundation (MAF) – I am running a sponsored 5K tomorrow, April 12th. Link below. The MAF is a Scottish charity that provides psychological and emotional support to victims of childhood sexual assault. An article to further awareness on this topic is in the pipeline.)