How far we haven’t come as liberals from the post-election Pantsuit Nation intersectionality Hunger Games. The minute Trump was elected, the majority of us who didn’t elected him kicked off months of online death-match sparring to win the right to be the biggest victim in the room. Damn the fact that we’re all the product of multiple connections and interweavings of gender, gender identify, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, and linguistic and cultural identification. The message was clear late last year: everybody into the Democratic panic room, where we’ll all choose our single deepest well of grief to define ourselves…and to hell with everything else we are. We no longer needed the Republicans to criticize our respect for the intersected natures of all human beings. In our masturbatory orgy of grief-claiming, we began to tear ourselves apart on those grounds.
The post-Harvey Weinstein #MeToo hashtag continues that trend. A sexually predatory monster, he got the thorough professional destruction he deserved–and the longstanding issue of sexual harassment and violence in Hollywood got the airing it desperately needed, too. And then, predictably, the fight to claim victimhood began in earnest. The #MeToo hashtag was promoted in social media, both as a means for female–and only female–victims of sexual harassment and violence to claim their grief, and allegedly as a strategy for helping end sexual predation.
From the start, #MeToo is toxic. Its premise automatically implies sexual harassment and violence against women as the only valid forms of sexual predation, and negates the validity of the experience of male victims of sexually predatory acts and behaviors. The assumption goes so deep that multiple news stories on the hashtag note almost with bemusement that “some men” have added their names, as if male victims of sexual predation are oddities. As if men of all ages are somehow immunized from sexual violence, or the damage and pain inflicted on them is somehow less awful–or less important.
Framing sexual violence as solely a women’s issue makes it even harder for male victims of the same heinous acts to admit their experiences. Some men adding their names under the hashtag have actually apologized for the clearly pre-defined intrusion of identifying themselves as victims of the same heinous behavior.
That’s as victim-blaming as it gets. To define a response to a universally impactful human issue of violence in a way that makes half the population apologize for being victims of it.
I am a victim of multiple acts of sexual predation experienced as a child. I shared that on Facebook, along with my above views on the toxicity of willfully shutting out the true and honest breadth of a group that deserves healing. Many of my friends agreed with me. Some didn’t.
One accused me of being “very #AllLivesMatter”–an accusation as thoughtless as the #MeToo hashtag itself. Racists claiming #AllLivesMatter aren’t pointing out that they’re included in the numbers of people who have been physically abused by police officers–they’re trying to say it isn’t a real issue. To the contrary, men claiming #MeToo are not only agreeing that it’s a real issue, they are pointing out that they are included in the numbers of people who have been physically abused by others–and in fact have been unfairly excluded from the current conversation on sexual violence.
Which is exactly what the intersectionality Hunger Games do.
I would like to know where the privilege is in a three-year old in his living room with a middle-aged man reaching into his pajamas and fondling his genitals when his mother has left the room? Or the adolescent on his way to junior high school physically cornered multiple times by the same older, larger businessman and sexually fondled, his hand reaching into my underwear and grabbing my penis, on crowded morning rush-hour E trains with lots of time going express between stops–thus lots of time between possibilities for escape–under Queens Boulevard?
And I’d like to know why anyone would assume the experience of sexual violence against male children might be less ubiquitous than sexual violence against women? (Go ahead and Google “child rape mugshot” and see what comes up. I’ll wait.)
Or why anyone would assume sexually victimized men would only be talking about adult experiences? Or even if they were, why that should matter?
Or how it wouldn’t be painfully obvious that all victims of sexual predation would flash on their experiences and their pain after the Harvey Weinstein story broke–including male victims?
Most of all, though, I’d like to know why anyone would claim a qualitative difference regarding one human being overpowering another to objectify and use them sexually as experienced by men versus women? Are the men supposed to like it? Be prepared for it? Be better able to save themselves from it–as if being “overpowered” by another has a different, lesser meaning depending on the gender of the person being overpowered? Do the men have it coming? Are they supposed to suck it up because they’re men?
My friend commented that being victims of sexual violence is at the core of female identity in a way that “only women can understand” and “truly know the heartache of it,” and that men shouldn’t assume that sharing their stories should make women feel any better.
Let me run that bullshit right into the ground, where it belongs.
As a former steering committee member in the 1980s and early 1990s of what was the oldest and largest peer-run LGBTQ rap group in America, in my experience sexual violence committed against men is far more ubiquitous than people like my friend think. Our meetings would frequently include frank, heart-rending discussions of sexual harassment and violence committed against LGBTQ youth of all gender identifications. That didn’t magically stop happening once the new millennium arrived.
And men have not been sharing their sexual predation experiences to “make women feel better.” How much more “my pain is the center of the universe” can you possibly get? Men have been sharing their experiences of sexual predation because they, unfortunately, have those experiences, too, which makes them a part of the story whether my friend–or anyone else–likes it or not.
To categorically exclude people who have suffered as you have because you have unilaterally decided that only your pain matters, besides being astoundingly selfish, is also a great way to turn off potential allies. It’s a reasonable question–if you think my pain isn’t valid, why should I stand in allyship with yours?
Male victim of sexual predation are by definition part of any discussion on sexual violence, no matter what any mindlessly conceived hashtag campaign says. That anyone might not think they are is a symptom of sorely unexamined gender stereotyping, not reality. They don’t deserve to patronized or pushed aside because some people think sexual violence isn’t real if it’s done to make genitals.
Not only is the violence and it’s experience the same, the shame is the same, too. How many men are watching this particular intersectionality Hunger Game play out and feeling doubly victimized? A moment in a societal conversation that clearly includes them and would allow them, too, to begin healing–except for that pesky penis?
Fuck that noise.
I didn’t share my story with another human being for more than 30 years. Anyone who thinks the experience of male victims of sexual predation is invalid because we are male victims is welcome to go back in time and have my experiences for me. Because I would prefer to not to have those memories myself.
The perverted concept of hyper-masculinity that we harbor in this society is the reason that I–or anyone else, regardless of gender identification–has memories like that in the first place. But I have them. They are as equally as valid as anyone else’s. And without acknowledging them, there is no hope for ending the scourge of sexual violence, because we will only be attacking part of the problem.
When we get to the point where we literally use our pain to exclude each other instead of to unite in compassion, we commit a form of cultural suicide.
If it pisses you off that I’m claiming my experience, die angry.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.