Sample Expository Essay on Feminism: Sexual And Non-Sexual Harassment Against Men Continue

EssayFeminism
May 4, 2008

Sexual harassment has been identified as a feminist issue for a long time. So, when men like Terry Crews and Brendan Fraser stepped out saying they were victims of sexual harassment by powerful men in the film industry, they were met with doubt and ridicule. The situation is not too different from women who often have to go at extreme lengths to prove that they were indeed victimized, but women often receive sympathy from fellow women and victims, as we have seen in the powerful #MeToo Movement . Men, in contrast, do not often receive the same sympathy. As a result, although men experience almost as much sexual harassment as women, the issue is often ignored in scholarly discussions and policy development. This expository essay seeks to demonstrate that sexual harassment is an issue that affects men as much as it affects women, yet men’s experiences are rarely discussed or considered due to prevalent misogynistic attitudes leading to lack of awareness and underreporting. The neglect of men’s sexual victimization leads to multiple social issues like mental health issues, employment problems, and so on.  

Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a long-term issue that is present all over the world. The United Nations defines sexual harassment (learn how to write a definition essay ) as unwelcome behavior that is sexual in nature (“What is Sexual Harassment?,” n.d.). Sexual harassment is understood in three categories: sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention, and gender harassment (Holland, Rabelo, Gustafson, Seabrook, and Cortina, 2016). These categories exhibit the different manifestations of sexual harassment. The first, sexual coercion, is the act of establishing sexual relationship through threats or bribes (often related to the victim’s employment) (Holland, Rabelo, Gustafson, Seabrook, and Cortina, 2016). This is the most common form of sexual harassment depicted in popular media, the most prevalent image being of the male boss threatening his junior of termination or promising promotion in exchange for sexual relationship. The second, unwanted sexual attention, is when someone makes unwelcome and/or unreciprocated romantic or sexual advances toward someone. This type of sexual harassment may occur in the workplace with persistent advances despite rejection or in the streets in the form of catcalling. The third form is gender harassment, which involves hostile behaviors as opposed to sexual ones. This type of harassment includes insults or degrading attitudes based on one’s gender. Examples are women being called “bitches” and gay or effeminate men being called “pussies” or “faggots” (Holland, Rabelo, Gustafson, Seabrook, and Cortina, 2016). 

The sexual harassment experienced by men show similarities with those experienced by women. Most reported sexual harassment involve: (1) being misgendered or called a homophobic or transphobic slur (i.e., “fag,” “tranny”); (2) someone purposely brushing up against their body or touching them in a sexual way; (3) someone persistently texting or calling despite them expressing disinterest; (4) someone sending or showing them explicit content online without their consent (such as via e-mail, Facebook, or Snapchat); (5) someone catcalling them (e.g., whistling, honking, making kissy noises, leering or staring aggressively, etc.) (Stop Street Harassment, 2018). Additionally, about 3% of American men are also victims of rape or attempted rape (RAINN, n.d.). Despite these staggering experiences and statistics, sexual harassment against men continue to be in the margins of the discussion. The lack of attention toward this issue compounds the already tragic experiences of men, as it allows these crimes to prevail while men struggle in silence.

Sexual Harassment in Men

Sexual harassment is an issue that is commonly associated with women. Such an assumption is quite understandable given that the concept began with the feminist movement highlighting the violence women experienced from men. Furthermore, sexual harassment is rooted in a privilege—that men are superior and stronger than women, and women, being in an inferior position, should be subject to the men (du Toit and le Roux, 2020). However, the misogynistic roots of sexual harassment do not limit this behavior to target only women. Men, are also victimized by sexual harassment. A 2018 survey by Stop Street Harassment found that 43% of men experienced sexual harassment or assault. While this number is lower than that of women’s (81%), the survey is proof that sexual harassment is not non-existent and, in fact, is quite significant among men, too. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that 3% of American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, and 1 out of 10 rape victims are male (RAINN, n.d.).  However, these statistics are always considered underestimates because men are less likely to disclose such experiences than women. In fact, only 16% of men with documented histories of sexual abuse consider themselves to be victims or survivors of sexual abuse (1in6, n.d.). These issues are rooted in sexist behaviors and myths about masculinity and sexual harassment.

As mentioned, it is widely understood that sexual harassment and rape statistics concerning men are underestimates because of the widespread underreporting (1in6, n.d.). Men may not consider an experience as sexual harassment or abuse, and therefore not report it, because they may not immediately recognize the act as such. For one, they may believe the myth that women cannot sexually harass men and so dismiss sexual harassment perpetrated by women (Let’s Be Clear, n.d.). Such beliefs stem from misogynistic cultures but is also a signal of the shortcomings of the feminist movement in including gender analysis in discussions on sexual harassment (du Toit and le Roux, 2020). As a result, male victimization has become viewed as an exceptional occurrence. It does not help that one of the main predictors of men’s exposure to harassment is their deviance from traditional masculinity (Holland, Rabelo, Gustafson, Seabrook, and Cortina, 2016). Traditional toxic masculinity views men who deviate from traditional expressions of gender roles as inferior and can be treated as women. Thus, the sexual harassment men receive are justified in the eyes of the perpetrators and are, meanwhile, ignored in discussions due cultural embedded misogyny. As a consequence of the exclusion of men’s experience of sexual harassment in feminist discussions, men who have been sexually harassed also contend with fear about reporting or speaking up about it. 

The culture of misogyny permeates in individuals as well. Men try to create an outer persona of strength and, often, hypersexuality, to exude masculinity. Thus, there are myths about men wanting to have sex all the time and it is a “win” for a male employee, for example, to have sexual relations with their female boss. However, such a situation is considered sexual harassment and would have alarmed people had the employee been female. This myth also comes with hand-in-hand with the incorrect idea that only men are capable of sexually assaulting another man—that a woman can never assault a man (Let’s Be Clear, n.d.; 1in6, n.d.). This, unfortunately, could not be farther from the truth because women are as capable of harassing a man as men are. Physical strength is not always enough to deter a sexual harasser because women, too, can use drugs, alcohol, and intimidation to prevent a man from resisting, such as in cases of date rape . With such myths, men fear being seen as weak and ridiculed for it, in addition to being doubted by the police when they report sexual harassment.

Conclusion

Sexual harassment is a problem that affects both men and women, yet discussions and public policy usually only center on women’s experiences. The exclusion of men in discussions on sexual harassment has been damaging and allowed such abuses to prevail. Men often fail to report instances of sexual harassment either because they do not recognize it as such or hesitate for fear of doubt and ridicule. These issues stem from the misogynistic culture that has been dominating our society—the one that prevents men from being vulnerable. Failing to acknowledge and report experiences of sexual harassment is not only damaging to society because it is not taken into consideration for public policy, but it is also debilitating to the individual. Sexual harassment, regardless of the intensity, is traumatic and requires support of loved ones and professionals. Without such support, men who experienced sexual harassment may resort to self-destructive behavior and suffer from mental health issues

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References

1in6. (n.d.) The 1 in 6 statistic. 1in6.org. Retrieved August 31, 2022. https://1in6.org/get-information/the-1-in-6-statistic/ 

Du Toit, L. and Le Roux, E. (2020). A feminist reflection on male victims of conflict-related sexual violence. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 28(1), pp. 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1350506820904982 

Holland, K.J., Rabelo, V. C., Gustafson, A. M., Seabrook, R. C., and Cortina, L. M. (2016). Sexual harassment against men: Examining roles of feminist activism, sexuality, and organizational context. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 17(1), pp. 17-29, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0039151 

Let’s Be Clear. (n.d.). Men and sexual assault. Let’s Be Clear – University of Central Florida. Retrieved September 1, 2022. https://letsbeclear.ucf.edu/more-information/sexual-assault-and-consent/men-and-sexual-assault/

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network [RAINN]. (n.d.). Victims of sexual violence: Statistics. Rainn.org. Retrieved August 31, 2022. https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

Stop Street Harassment. (2018). The facts behind the #metoo movement: A national study on sexual harassment and assault. http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Full-Report-2018-National-Study-on-Sexual-Harassment-and-Assault.pdf 

“What is Sexual Harassment?” (n.d.). United Nations. Retrieved August 31, 2022. https://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/pdf/whatissh.pdf

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