Last month, I published my ‘I Wasn’t Asking For It’ post, where I spoke in great length about my own personal encounters with ‘lad culture’ and why I believe perspectives and ideas surrounding sexual behaviour in today’s society require a major overhaul. That particular post received an incredible response from my readers and was even picked up and shared by a few external sites and publications. This meant the world to me as my main aim in posting it was to provoke as much thought and conversation with as many people as possible.
One response in particular, from a male reader of the blog, really struck a chord and encouraged me to write this post, from the ‘other’ perspective. Shane*, who understandably wishes to remain anonymous, contacted me to say that he enjoyed the post and would like to tell me his story from the perspective of a male as the victim of unwanted sexual behaviour. Sexual assault and domestic abuse, where the male is the victim and not the culprit, occurs much more often than we think but is seldom taken seriously, which of course is by no means acceptable.
According to Rape Crisis Network Ireland, in 2013, 94% of those who availed of help of Sexual Assault Treatment units were female, with 6% being male. While this statistic may appear small, it’s important to note that the majority of men who were victims of such behaviour more than likely availed of no such help or treatment. The reasoning behind this is that men as a whole are far more reluctant to seek help when it comes to such matters, purely because sexual assault/violence in men is rarely taken seriously, therefore, these figures really don’t show an accurate representation of how many males were actually victims of this kind of abuse.
As much as I can fill you in on the technicalities and statistics surrounding male sexual assault, I really can’t portray such encounters without a male’s prerogative, which is where Shane* steps in. Here is his personal account of the behaviour he has encountered as a young man living in Ireland in 2016..
“Consent has become a very prominent topic over the past few months. Sexual assaults and rape have very much entered the spotlight of youth media and its social platforms, with victim stories becoming more common and more frequently told. Scroll through YikYak on a Thursday night and someone will have been catcalled or groped while just trying to enjoy themselves on a night out. Walk around town on any night that students are out and you’ll witness it first hand; girls getting hit-on when they clearly aren’t interested, grinded and groped in the clubs when the crowds block all means of escape. And of course, what happens behind closed doors, the horror stories none of us want to hear, but unfortunately, far too many are familiar with. But what about men; do guys go through the same trauma women do?
Well the truth is: we do, we just don’t hear about it anywhere near as much. The Irish male is known for being tight lipped about their feelings. “Era I’m grand” is the usual response when asked if we’re okay and no one says much more about it, that’s just the way society has brought us up to behave. I’m guilty of this myself, I generally keep my problems hidden and try to deal with them on my own, so when a man becomes a victim of sexual assault, the last thing we’ll do is speak up, through the fear of not being taken seriously by our family, friends or even the authorities.
Believe it or not, I’ve had a few of these encounters; hands sliding into the back pocket of my jeans, up my thigh and down my torso towards my waistline. I never said it was okay, I was never asked for permission, but still get a dirty look thrown and a “what is your problem?” when I slap the hand away, take a step to the side or leave the room, and what’s even worse is, when the first no clearly didn’t hit home and they try again. These minor wounds to the envelope of personal space are manageable, like getting a scratch; stick a plaster on it and it’s fine. They leave no serious scars, I can deal with it and get on with my life in no time like nothing really happened, but if you’ve ever fallen into a patch of briars then you know how painful scratches can be and the marks they leave, which brings me to my next point..
I was out with a group of friends, at predrinks when I got chatting to one of the girls there who I’d only spoken to a handful of times previously. We hit it off well and one thing led to another. The following morning when I went to leave to get to my lab, she tried to playfully pull me back. I had to leave, this lab was 10% of my grade and I wasn’t prepared to lose out on it; but I wasn’t going anywhere, I was pinned to the bed. I had never felt so weak, helpless and vulnerable than I did at that moment in time. After what felt like a lifetime she let me up, I dressed and left without a word. I was scared. It wasn’t the last time I was left feeling uncomfortable by her. Every word and syllable she spoke put me on edge, every hug she gave was a tense and vulnerable moment; but I stayed around after the first encounter for weeks, not out of loyalty or love, but fear. She had been uninvited in my space so many times because I was afraid to say no, for fear of what might happen, what she could do.
The day eventually came when I did say no and all the weight fell away, I wasn’t afraid anymore, I was safe and could heal, although it took longer to heal than just a plain scratch to my personal space. It still shocks me how some young people seem to have taken leave of their senses on nights out, how many people think it’s acceptable to intimidate and objectify people and violate people’s privacy, for the sake of an ego boost or personal gratification.”
A massive thank you to Shane* for coming forward and sharing his story with me. There are far too many double standards present in today’s society and one which is particularly harmful is that male sexual assault stories are somehow less credible/serious than those of a female victim. If you or someone you know has been at the centre of a sexual assault/rape scenario, regardless of their gender, there are some incredible supports out there for them;
Cork Rape Crisis Centre
Phone – (1800) 496496
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org