Monday, June 18, 2012

The Isolation of Boys (another "Sexism Hurts Everyone" Reminder)

(TW Sandusky Trial discussion)

I was listening to NPR this morning, as I am apt to do, and I caught a snippet of last Friday's "Barber Shop" segment on Tell Me More. Michele Martin and the guys were discussing the Jerry Sandusky trial. The coverage of the trial to this point has been disgustingly chock full o' rape apologism. But the discussion I caught on the "Barber Shop" brought up an interesting point. One of the men shared that he felt that part of how Sandusky got so far in preying on boys was the fact that society socializes men and boys to keep away from deep conversations. 

Many people, men specifically, were very close to Sandusky's victims, but somehow things kept going on for years. Clearly, people just weren't talking about what was going on. I suspect this was due to many complex factors at play, one of which is probably the fact that the boys didn't feel they had anyone to turn to. 

Of course, we know this case is particularly insidious because it appears that many grown men were fully aware of what Sandusky was doing but didn't feel it there place to intervene--I'm not talking about that. What I am talking about is the boy who went home each day and didn't say anything to anyone about what happened to him. That is a pretty common theme for rape survivors: isolation which is frequently fueled by shame and fear. However, I can only imagine this problem is compounded for boys who are socialized to view vulnerability and sharing their feelings as weakness. 

As someone who has worked in youth services for a long time, I know that studies show that girls are more likely to seek help from an adult when they are in need. It makes sense given our cultural association with feelings and femininity. So if you are a boy in this society, and you're already told that you're not supposed to be "touchy feely," and no adult male role models step up to open channels of communication and check in with you on an emotional level, it's no surprise that you're going to keep quiet about the pain you are carrying.

So I thought this was a really valid example of one of the many ways that sexism works against boys. I'm not here to claim that male rape survivors have it harder or worse than female. I don't think that's true nor do I think discussions like that are productive. But I do think it is important to remember that sexism--and rape culture--hurts everyone.

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