We need a separate discussion about male victims of sexual assault
One that still emphasises female survivors and doesn’t give into misogyny
By Jack Boag
Trigger warning: Sexual Assault & Murder
Image [cropped] Craig Sunter (CJS64) via Flickr.
I was sexually assaulted not long after I started university. I made my peace with it when the
perpetrator apologised not long after. They seemed genuinely remorseful, and I had no
interest in taking it any further (partially because my trust in complaints systems is low). But
as a man, I’m always worried that when I do feel empowered to share my story, it’s
speaking over women. After all, a lot of these discussions are very gendered, and the main
priority rightly concerns violence against women. That leaves male survivors often thinking
“where do we fit in?” The times we feel empowered to talk about it are often ones where the discussion centres around violence against women, so when I do have frank conversations about my own story as a queer man, I try to frame it as standing in solidarity with women.
The murder of Sarah Everard in South London and the discussion it has created on Twitter
has still been empowering. However, I will always feel uncomfortable because I will worry in
perpetuity that I’m speaking over women. Much like with the rise of male mental health
issues, the solution is more focus and support towards male victims of sexual assault (which
in my case was perpetrated by another man).
The first aspect of my assault that needs to be discussed is a queer one. The advances made
towards me that night shortly after the club closing time were made after it was established
that he was gay and I was bisexual. The concept of consent in LGBT+ spaces and among the
LGBT+ community is something that needs discussed—my indication that I was not straight
wasn’t a signal that I was interested in sexual activity with that person, and nor should it be.
I’ve also been on the receiving end of predatory behaviour from older men in queer spaces,
and while I’ve never been assaulted in a gay bar, I’ve certainly been made to feel
uncomfortable. It made me question my choice to live, at least to my university friends, as
an out bisexual man.
The second is the aspect of toxic masculinity and how the patriarchy can hurt men. Society
tells me I cannot be vulnerable, and my trauma is mine and mine alone to deal with. While
I’ve always recognised this as bad, I can sometimes, even knowingly, fall into these traps.
The patriarchy hurting men, especially queer men, isn’t particularly a point of discussion.
I’ve always thought of it as a way to reclaim International Men’s Day from the incels and
misogynists, who take it as the one day of the year society allows them to be overtly sexist,
racist, or homophobic. This hypothetical space would be far more comfortable for divulging
my trauma, knowing that I’m not speaking over women, and also so that the ‘Not All Men’
crowd don’t use me purely to justify their own “I’m not part of the problem, therefore I
must not be part of the solution” mentality.
All victims of rape and sexual assault need the time and space to tell their story in a way
that is comfortable for them. That means we need to talk more about male survivors in a way that doesn’t take away from the gendered nature of sexual violence and ensure a
separate discourse about male victims.