It’s easy to assume that the perpetrators of sexual harassment are always male. But the #MeToo campaign has proved otherwise
Grace Wachira @yaa_grace
A man posted on his social media account how he was sexually harassed. Netizens made fun of it—“How now?” “Are you serious?” “Really?” one netizen after another responded. One woman called him out for not being man enough. However, another social media user had had enough.
“That’s double standards. So, when a woman is sexually harassed, it is wrong. But when a man is harassed, it is a different case,” he retorted.
And men came out to say how they were assaulted, while growing up and even as adults. They cited abuse from house helps, aunties, cousins and others even in their workplaces or while at parties. Last week, a Scottish pub announced its male bar staff were switching from kilts to pants after repeated harassment from female patrons who were groping them.
For many people, when they think of sexual harassment, their mind immediately jumps to an image of a woman. And while most cases do involve female victims, a growing number of cases of men being harassed have emerged.
The #MeToo campaign that recently made headlines saw renowned actors such as Terry Crews also come out and say men too were harassed. He claimed he was a victim of a sexual assault by a ‘high-level Hollywood executive.’
“The assault lasted only minutes, but what he was effectively telling me while he held my genitals in his hand, was that he held the power,” Crews said.
Researchers have found that one in six boys experience sexual assault before they are adults and one in 25 males are sexually assaulted over the age of 15. “Men in today’s society are in an awkward position. They have been brought up to be macho men and go-getters.
So, when they face some challenges beyond their control such as being sexually abused, they feel defeated,” Loise Okello, a counselling psychologist says.
Sexual harassment in men can be as straightforward as unwelcome touching and being subjected to offensive sexual comments and jokes.
It may also take the form of sexual coercion, involving job-related threats or bribes to force unwilling workers to enter into a sexual relationship with the harasser. There is also unwanted sexual attention involving unwelcome sexual advances.
For a man to say no, it takes a lot of confidence. “Their self-esteem and self-worth has to be high for them to confidently turn down such a woman,” she says. Men can turn down sexual advances by simply taking a swipe at the woman’s physical appearance.
“Women hold their physical appearances in high regard. So, if a man wittingly says he is attracted to tall, light, thick or any other preference at his disposal, he turns her off. She takes it personally and that may solve the situation,” Okello laughs.
The challenge with sexual harassment in men is that they rarely talk or report about it. They are afraid of being mocked. The societal belief that men can’t truly be sexually harassed by a woman implicates their own sexuality.
They may fear being embarrassed if details of the harassment were leaked, particularly if they believe that they should be able to handle the issue themselves.
However, Okello advises men to come out. “How men can let this off their chests is by talking about it like heroes. The same manner they talk about conquering a woman, they should also talk about turning down an offer,” she says.
It is not a matter that should not be taken lightly. “The boy-child has been left to figure things out for himself and that is risky. This catches up with them when they are grown. Nowadays though, there are forms coming up such as ‘Man Enough’ and ‘Man Up’. Such forums help curb cases of sexual harassment,” she says.
This harassment may result in psychological issues. “The society still expects men to be the heads while the sexual assaults have taught them a different lesson altogether, lowering their dignity. In such instances, some men become homosexual.
The society should be more lenient on men too. They also have a say when it comes to matters of sex and can indeed say ‘no’ affirmatively,” she concludes.