In light of the recent Terry Crews story that sparked outrage across Hollywood and beyond, the conversation revolving the #MeToo movement has taken a shift regarding the role of men in the context of rape culture from simply being the assailants that they are often portrayed, to being potential victims of abuse as well. According to Crews, the former head of the Motion Picture Department at William Morris Endeavor groped him while at an event sometime in February 2016. With Terry Crews—a modern symbol of Hollywood’s indestructible heterosexual cis-male masculinity—at the forefronts of what has now become a transnational movement, people are beginning to realize that the problem isn’t as simple as pitting two sexes against each other.
Over the years, men from different walks of life have come forward to speak up about their own stories of being victims of sexual abuse. What the Crews story has done is merely embolden the existing plight of abused men all around the world, one that has long been undermined in many conversations regarding the matter. More importantly, it has fleshed out the more intricate aspects of sexual assault as an expression of something much bigger than just “desire” but furthermore, as a manifestation of power and politics—as definitively outlined in the Crews case in which a more powerful and bureaucratically top-level figure felt entitled over the body of somebody who has found a living as a commodity in modern America’s consumerist media culture.
It is precisely the political aspect of sexual assault that lends the conversation to a gendered debate on how patriarchy has posited men as the superior species and how the power that it has enshrined upon the male is what ultimately paves the way for him to objectify the female body. Of course, we cannot discount the outliers in the discourse that refer to how assault can happen to anyone (no matter the power they hold or the lack thereof) and can sprout even from the most underprivileged places. This, however, only makes for a compelling case arguing that rape and sexual assault can in fact happen to anyone—even men, as powerful as they are.
How power plays a role in rape culture is an important thing to acknowledge in these conversations because rape and sexual assault are mere reflections of the struggle for that power. When victims of abuse come forward with their truths, the ability of their oppressors to skew their narratives and turn the tide against them by virtue of public opinion (thus, rape culture) is an extension of that power struggle. It is then easy to fall into traps in discussions when the global conversation involves those who skirt around the issue by turning it into a “men versus women” thing.
Certainly, the conversation can get pretty muddled up: with the crimes of Woody Allen, Harvey Weinstein and other powerful male public figures splayed across the public forum, how do we sympathize with men as potential victims of abuse?
In Canada’s New Democratic Party (or NDP), Member of Parliament Christine Moore is the subject of sexual misconduct allegations from Glen Kirkland, an Afghanistan veteran. In his testimonies, he maintains that if a male member of parliament had done the same thing to a female subordinate, then the press—who he insists have long known of the sexual misconducts—might talk about the issue more. This reveals a flaw in how we treat abusers and the abused in these situations, especially when the press pivots the discourse to gender.
This highlights further the role of men in dealing with rape culture that transcends the simple “assailant” or “victim” dichotomy, but as actual allies in the fight against abuses.
In the tech world, a recent development saw MODA Casting—a mobile platform that democratizes model castings by enabling models to book jobs without the need for agents or casting connections—leading the battle for the prevention of abuses in the modelling world realized through a partnership with #ProjectConsent. In an industry riddled with unwanted sexual advances, MODA Casting CEO Victor Teruel saw this as an opportunity to challenge the norm and change the environment to make models feel safer.
Popular figures like John Legend and Bernie Sanders have also expressed solidarity by participating in Women’s marches as a form of support for all abuse victims.
The inevitable course that the press and by extension, the #MeToo movement must now take is an intersectional approach, disparate from the white feminist narrative that it has long held. This means it must open its doors to different versions of the struggle and the different faces that abuses entail. Concessions have to be made that the male gender is not the enemy, but the systems of power in place. If we ever stand a chance at dismantling our true oppressors, we have to identify and reject the right enemies; meaning, we have to acknowledge that men can be allies just like how women can be oppressors, too.
This signals a new era for the #MeToo movement to move forward in solidarity for victims of abuse no matter what gender, and to underpin the importance of identifying the real enemies in the global conversation. More importantly, may these recent developments put forward the importance of men and their stories in the fight against sexual abuse in its many forms.