Men and MeToo Movement
In 2006 when Twitter and all other forms of social media were beginning, a woman by the name Tarana Burke initiated the #metoo Movement in 2006, in order to spread awareness and understanding about sexual assault in underprivileged communities of color. But it wasn’t until October 2017 when the actress Alyssa Milano spoke at an event where she encourages all women who had suffered a sexual assault or harassment to use the hash tag #metoo that it took off like a fire storm. From that moment women felt empowered to voice stories of assault and harassment, but what got lost in the shuffle was men. Men who had been assaulted and men who had been falsely accused but since they were men, their voices largely hushed and pushed to the back to make way for the women who had suffered at the hands of men.
Growing up we are all told pink is for girls and blue is for boys, dolls are for girls and trucks for boys, it is ok for girls to cry and have a moment of weakness, but boys must be strong and never show emotion, girls can be assaulted but boys, well you can’t rape the willing. This thinking has been ingrained in most men all their lives, and with the #metoo movement some men’s voices are starting to be heard but not nearly the amount that the women are but why?
It could be simply that it is taught to most men from young ages that they must be tough and if you’re tough then people will leave you alone, but if you are weak or show weakness you leave a door wide open for others to attack you, either verbally, physically, or in the worst case sexually. With the tidal wave the #metoo movement became some male survivors of sexual abuse and assault are wondering #whataboutme? Male survivors admire the women for speaking out and understand that these experiences can leave traumatic scares, men also wonder if other men with similar scars will ever be able to have the levels of understanding and empathy that women have in the public eye. One such survivor is Chris Brown, a University of Minnesota music professor. He says, “Because the movement happened to get its start with women only, in a way it furthers my loneliness as a past victim.” Professor Brown was one of several men who in December 2017 accused the renowned music conductor James Levine of abusing them as teenagers several decades ago. Professor Brown goes on to state that “Men are historically considered the bad guys, if some men abuse women, then we all are abusers ourselves … so therefore when it comes to our being abused, we deserve it.” (‘Male victims of sex abuse feel left behind by #MeToo parade,’ 2018)
This sense of distance is shared by many abused men with some starting to use the hashtag #MenToo. Another survivor, Andrew Schmutzer, who is a professor of biblical studies at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and who has also written about being abused as a teen, goes to say that “We’re never necessarily welcome to the parade, as a male survivor, you’re always an adjunct,” he said. “You’re never the leading subject of a conversation.” (‘Male victims of sex abuse feel left behind by #MeToo parade,’ 2018)
Brown and Schmutzer are not alone, Schmutzer is just one of a group of survivors and therapists forming the leadership of MaleSurvivor. This group forming in 1995 has sought to provide resources and support to men who have been abused sexually either as children or adults, and since its creation has gone to say that it has been visited by hundreds of thousands of men from all over the globe. The therapists and psychologist who work with the men of MaleSurvivor go on to endorse the findings of multiple studies that state that at least 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused in childhood and 1 out of every 4 males will experience some form of sexual trauma in their lives. (‘MaleSurvivor,’ n.d.) 1 in 4 males that is a staggering to think about especially when you look around you either in a classroom or just out in public. According recent research from Dr. David Finkelhor of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire approximately 7.8% of boys aged 10-17 (and caregivers of boys under 10 years of age) reported in a telephone survey that they had experienced some form of sexual victimization in their lifetime. Of boys ages 14-17, over 20% reported experiencing some form of sexual victimization. (Finkelhor, Turner, Shattuck, & Hamby, 2013, p. xx)
And it is not just happening to young boys and men. Rape in prison is frequent with the averages being in 2011-2012, an estimated 4 percent of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2 percent of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the preceding 12 months or since admission to the facility. (Finkelhor, Turner, Shattuck, & Hamby, 2013, p. xx)
It is also an issue in the military, the Pentagon gave an estimate of 26,300, military members having unwanted sexual contact and of that number 53% were attacks on men, which rounds out to about 13,780 with these attacks by other men. RAND Researchers estimate that, as of early fall 2014, approximately 20,000 of the U.S. Military’s 1.3 million active-duty members experienced one or more sexual assaults in the past year. (Bicksler et al., 2015, p. xx) These are staggering numbers but because there is such a stigma coupled with feeling of shame many are reluctant to speak out or get professional help.
Slowly this is starting to change with prominent men such as actors, music stars, and professional athletes coming forward with their abuse. According to Richard Gartner, a New York-based psychoanalyst says that these famous men” are models for others to come forward, to tell their families, to find help,” he also says. “It becomes a less shameful thing when somebody famous says it happened to them.”. These male celebrities are: former pro hockey star Theo Fleury; Cy Young Award-winning baseball pitcher R.A. Dickey; film director Tyler Perry; actors Tom Arnold and Anthony Edwards; and Chester Bennington, lead singer for the rock band Linkin Park, who hanged himself last year. (‘Male victims of sex abuse feel left behind by #MeToo parade,’ 2018)
A first-hand account comes from a writer of The Telegraph, Neil Lyndon who tells his story of abuse. Neil says in his article that like the French women who have been using the Twitter handle #BalanceTonPorc, he to has an irresistible urge to name his pig. And his name was D.J. Coulson, headmaster of Collyer’s School, Horsham – the direct-grant grammar school he attended in the 1950s. Neil says that the head master was addicted to beating the bottoms of boys’ with bamboo canes that was so violent the skin almost broke and the welts and bruises lasted for weeks, slowly fading from black and blue to red, pink and yellow. Out of a school of 600 boys, at least one a week was subjected to these sadistic brutalities that Coulson inflicted irrationally, unjustly and arbitrarily and for which any perpetrator would certainly be imprisoned today. “Along with groups of friends, I was twice on the receiving end.” (Lyndon/ The Telegraph, 2017)
It is now known today that many who repress their sexual desires often manifest these in other ways. More often then not through violence it is not just men who are in power are the predators, women too that are in positions of power can also take advantage of men. Neil Lyndon goes on to say that when he was attending one school that an attractive female staff member took a liking to him. He does not go into detail about what transpired but stated that she should have been fired and removed from the teaching profession. Neil Lyndon closes that statement by saying” but for the whole of my life ever since, I have remembered the outrage with undying affection and my only regret today is that there wasn’t a lot more of it.” (Lyndon/ The Telegraph, 2017)
The sad thing is that the powerful and notable in Hollywood and elsewhere don’t want to hear men’s sides and stories. The actor Tom Hanks said that all men must “pipe down” and listen to women. It is not that simple as it is not just women who have suffered abuses, they are sometimes the abusers. In an article written for the magazine Glamour and posted on their website, with the very attention-grabbing title If We Want Men to Be Part of #MeToo, We Have to Stop Gendering the Movement, opens with the statement that actress and director Asia Argento made her claim that Harvey Weinstein raped her at Cannes. She went on to state to those in attendance who might have abused or mistreated women, “You know who you are, but most importantly, we know who you are, and we are not going to allow you to get away with it any longer.” (Arceneaux, 2018) She went on to tell her story with The New Yorker and was a very established in the #MeToo movement.
This was until it came out that she had arranged to pay the sum of $380,000 to a Jimmy Bennett. Bennett, according to an article in The New York Times, who as a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room year earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18. (Severson, 2018)
It is not just young male actors who have faced this problem, Terry Crews came forward last October and very publicly accused one Hollywood executive of groping him. Once this allegation was made Mr. Crews was horribly and mercilessly mocked on Instagram by the rapper 50 Cent. Mr. Crews went on to speak in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for the hearing in June for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. At this hearing he discussed the problem of what he called “toxic masculinity” and how this tends to be almost “cultish”. Bennet who accused the actress of sexual assault echoed that idea with his statement: “At the time I believed there was still a stigma to being in the situation as a male in our society,” (Arceneaux, 2018)
What followed from Asia Argento is something that women always accuse men who are accused of sexual assault or rape of doing; in her response she tried to disparage, discredit, and censure. What follows is her statement that she gave in a statement to the journalist Yashar Ali, “I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett,” she goes on to say, “Bennett—who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages—unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me.” (‘Twitter,’ n.d.)
When an accused man says this of the female that he is being accused by he is systematically raked through the coals, yet for a woman who has said in the past that she was raped to say the same thing about her accuser is unacceptable. Could you imagine the uproar if Bill Cosby had said those same things about his accusers, or if Al Franken had said that he’d been asked to grope the woman in the photo the very same lady who was accusing him. Or if Kevin Spacey claimed that the male actor he allegedly assaulted “asked for it”. What if Louis CK had said that the woman begged to look at his penis, imagine if you will that the accuser was a woman and got treated the way that Asia Argento, who became had become the Joan of Arc or face of the #MeToo movement. IF this was said ladies would have come out of the woodwork arms linked, pitch forks raised, hell bent on destruction.
Another case is that of Avital Ronell, who was found responsible for sexually harassing a male Ph.D. student by her employer, New York University. The professor of German and Comparative Literature denies the harassment and says that the relations between the two — a lesbian and a gay man — were consensual. And to add insult to injury, instead of supporting the victim, her feminist friends are outraged that a woman is being held accountable for abuse. One supporter even had the audacity to suggest that women could never be abusers. Dana Bolger, an expert in Title IX policy says, “The vast majority of Title IX cases are protecting male victims from male perpetrators, or female victims from male perpetrators.” How is this okay? If men came out in support of a male accuser, the headlines would go around the world! (‘It’s time to bury the hypocritical #MeToo movement. If a man is the victim, tough,’ 2018)
It is just not men coming forward with their own allegations, there is also the fear that there will be fake claims. Currently in this age of technology all it takes is one tweet or Facebook post of some disgruntled ex-girlfriend or boy-friend to ruin someone’s life. Now it seems that all is needed is an accusation, but what happened to innocent until proven guilty? This is the dark side of the #MeToo movement and it is costing many powerful men to lose their jobs, reputations, and money. It seems too that young girls are feeling emboldened with the #MeToo to make threats when things do not go their way.
In an article written for the website aish.com Rabbi Benjamin Blech shares a story about a young man who confided in Rabbi Blech about when he was a counselor for a camp that often had the responsibility for the disciplining mixed groups of kids on outings and trips. The young man in charge corrected a young girl of about 10 years of age for breaking a very serious rule, who then proceeded to disrespectfully ignore him. A few moments later the young girl turned and whispered to him “If you ever try to tell me what to do again, I’m going to tell everyone you touched my private parts.” (Blech, 2018)
While there is not doubt that most women who come forward are true victims, actresses such as Rose McGowen who a very vocal and prominent figure of is #MeToo, who is also an alleged victim of Weinstein, was outraged that anyone would question an assault victim quickly changed her stance when shown evidence of a female predator. Her reply to the information was ‘None of us know the truth of the situation and I’m sure more will be revealed. Be gentle.” Yet in 2017 she stated that every accusation must be believed, that everyone suspected must be condemned, that due process and the concept of innocent until proven guilty are absurd about sexual accusations. (Blech, 2018)
How is this fair, to the men who are victims of not only sexual assault themselves, but to allegations that they are the perpetrator? If we are automatically supposed to believe the woman while simultaneously becoming judge, jury, and executioner not only in our minds but in the circus that is the media. These false accusations and the belief that a man is guilty until proven innocent is breaking down the trust that was between the sexes. This seems to be the disastrous legacy that modern feminist movement had given us. Given the spark that the #MeToo movement ignited along with idea that any masculinity is toxic, abhorrent, and fundamentally predatorial. If a person encourages boys and young men to be masculine, then they are raising the next generation of sexual predator. When young men are looking at getting consent forms signed before dates to make sure that anything that happens was agreed upon. Where did the trust go?
One way is that while women holding males accountable for criminal behavior, they are also applying a seared earth tactic that is destructive due to the undermining of trust that it is causing. Should a man accidently touch a woman to low on her back while taking a photo or attempting an innocent kiss can be compared to rape, it is not helping to heal the damage done by the offenders but causing more harm because no man wants to be accused of something that he didn’t do.
This is not just happening in dates and relationships, it is also starting to affect how men and women are interacting in the workplace. In a survey from the Pew Research Center Sixty-eight percent of Republican men and 59 percent of Republican women say it’s “harder” for men to interact with female colleagues while 45 percent of Democratic men and 40 percent of Democratic women feel the same. This survey titled “Sexual Harassment at Work in the Era of #MeToo,” wanted to measure how this impacted the work force. This is causing men to not want to either work with or hire women for the fear of being accused. Slightly more than half of the people surveyed overall (51 percent) said the heightened focus on sexual harassment in the workplace has created new challenges for men at work. Men were more likely to hold this belief (55 percent) than women (47 percent). (Paquette, 2018)
When it comes to social media and allegations there needs to be some accountability for accusations that are either unfounded or being used as a smear campaign. While the uses of social media have helped in the cases of sexual abuse by clergy, it has also helped to destroy or rail road some people such as Aziz Ansari. He was accused not by the woman he was one a date with but by a magazine that had heard rumors and decided to run with them without doing its due diligence. One such comment from article written by Babe is that she won’t be “fretting about one comic’s career” because Aziz Ansari is just “collateral damage” on the path to a better future promised by #MeToo. (Salter, 2018)
Where is the morality and ethics in trashing someone’s life just to get ahead in a movement that is supposed to be helping people? #MeToo is not an end that must be defended at all costs. It’s a means to an end, and one that must be subject to ethical reflection and critique even as it is under way.
Making assumptions without due diligence to the truth of the matter is somewhat morally deficient, in that saying that a victim should be believed with no actual allegations made when the reports are anonymous against a person can boggle the mind. We have a duty to give due process when the claims come forward. To seek out all the facts and deliver justice when it is deserved. Not just believing someone because they are female, that should not give anyone a leg up anywhere. It is like the 1950 and 60’s where it was believed that a woman couldn’t do certain jobs because she was a woman.
The #MeToo movement is a wonderful thing in that it gives women a voice to tell their stories, sometimes with out naming names, just a chance to say, “I am not alone”, but one must think that it has maybe gone to far when even God himself can be accused. The academic – associate professor of Clinical Psychology and Sexuality Studies at Minnesota State University Eric Sprankle – made the shocking claims on Twitter. He wrote: ‘The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all powerful deity impregnating a human teen. “There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario.’ (Stow, 2018) It seems that the professor who is an apparent Satanist who has the phrase Hail Satan in Latin on his Twitter page might need to read the passage in the bible. It says “You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make Him a king like his father David of long ago. He will rule forever over His people, who came from Jacob’s family. His kingdom will never end.” – Luke 1:31-33