OPINION: Male sexual harassment is not a joke

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Johnny Silvercloud

“You’re Proving Her Point”. Photo by Johnny Silvercloud on Flickr, Licensed as CC BY- SA 2.0. No changes were made to the original image. Use of this image does not indicate photographer endorsement of this article. Link to Image: https://flic.kr/p/RgGRLT

Payton Carns

The last few years, the #MeToo movement has been on the rise and is finally giving women a voice and empowerment to speak out about their sexual harassment experiences. Powerful men have been taken down after these women told their stories. It is an incredibly moving movement and the tremendous step forward it has made for women’s equality is astonishing.

While the power this movement holds for women should never be taken away, one thing that seems to be buried within the #MeToo movement is the many cases of sexual harassment that were not done by men, but done to men. It is not something that a lot of people talk about because the media doesn’t seem to shed a lot on the issue as it is not as common. This does not mean it is not equally as important as a woman’s story, and it needs to be heard. Male sexual harassment is not a joke.

Part of the reason our society seems so against the idea that a man could actually get harassed in a way a woman could goes back all the way to the idea of masculinity our society has. It sets unrealistic standards on men and boys that tells them they should just “man up” and hide away any sort of emotion or feeling they may have. This ties hand in hand with the fact that if a man claims he was harassed in any way by a woman, that he should have had the ability to push her off and that he should have just enjoyed it. This victim-blames the man in a way that makes them terrified to tell their story without getting ridiculed or mocked.

While both genders feel the traumatic effects of sexual harassment, for men and boys extra baggage of society’s stereotypes of how a man should act is added to the already terrifying situation. It’s a mental battle they are constantly facing on whether or not they should speak out and the feeling of shame and guilt for freezing up and not doing anything. These are risk factors for mental illnesses like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.

A prime example of this was in 2017, actor and former NFL player Terry Crews came out with his story of sexual harassment. He claimed that Adam Venit, the head of a major talent industry, groped him at a party in February of 2016. In the Twitter thread he used to share his story, Crews said, “I decided not to take it further because I didn’t want to be ostracized par for the course when the predator has power and influence.” When taking into account his size and physique many people decided something like that could never happen to such a large man. Rapper 50 Cent even commented on the issue on a now deleted Instagram post that mocked Crews’ reaction to the situation, saying that he couldn’t have possibly frozen in fear and that he should have just pushed Venit off. This goes to show how society continually shuts out any man that comes out with a story like Crews’ just because of how absurd it sounds to them. This is the main reason men keep quiet and bury their experiences because they simply don’t want to be ridiculed by their peers and the media.

It is understandable that the statistics don’t lie. Countless studies have shown that the victims of sexual harassment are primarily women. However, we can’t ignore the minority just because it is simply the minority. According to the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of the 7,809 cases of sexual harassment reported to them in 2011, 16.1% were men. This number has risen to 17.6%. 

Just like the the country as well as parts of the rest of the world that are encouraging women to speak up, men should have the same, equal encouragement. While some people might see that as diminishing to the progress women have made, it shouldn’t be perceived in that way.

Everyone who experiences some form of sexual harassment should be encouraged by society and the media to speak up in order to get justice and a huge weight off their shoulders. Furthermore, not one group of people should be able to “handle” rape better based on their masculinity. That starts putting the blame on the victim, not the harasser. Rape and sexual harassment is never okay no matter what gender the person is.