Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men (Part 7 of 9)

Another argument used to silence women who claim to have been sexually harassed is, “She didn’t fight back.”

Yet when people are robbed or mugged, no one asks them, “Why didn’t you resist?” That argument assumes that any person who didn’t want to be fondled would struggle and try to overcome the advances. I smile (ruefully) when I read such arguments. Occasionally, I’ve heard male survivors blame themselves.

“If I were a real man, I wouldn’t have let it happen.” Or they say, “I must have wanted it,” and then blame themselves for the sexual assault. As with women, we were physically overpowered by someone bigger and stronger when we were boys. Most of those women who kept silent did it out of fear—fear of losing their jobs, fear of being laughed at, fear of not being believed.

With us, it means that, as adult males, we look back and assume our younger selves to have been strong enough to fight. What could we have done? Cried out? Screamed? Kicked? Perhaps, but there’s something else with us. Our perps targeted us. They knew we were vulnerable. They waited until they had won our trust.

We were the ignored, unloved, unwanted boys. All anyone had to do was show us love and affection. We were too immature to reason out that they were only satisfying themselves and not truly caring for us.

Research used to refer to the fight-or-flight response to danger. A better way to put it today is to refer to fight, flight, or freeze. Victims become paralyzed as their body's protective response. Too often we punish ourselves, believing we know how we should have reacted.

Instead, we need to be kind and loving to ourselves. We did the best we knew how.

And we survived.

Did you blame yourself for not fighting back?

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Yes, Cec, all true. For my part, for years I thought I "wanted" the abuse. My abusers were all people I knew and loved. I was treated with great kindness and affection. Why didn't I fight back? Why would one fight against a friend, a brother? Why would a child, even with a vague sense that something was wrong with these "secret" encounters, fight? It felt physically pleasurable. It was affection that I so desperately craved. It messed me up and took me decades to understand I was a victim of abuse. I always felt complicit.
All I wanted was love, Cec. The gave me something pretending to be love--their base, animal desire. No wonder I was confused.