Trigger warning: Sexual assault
Posted by Akansh Khandelwal
Patriarchy as a social system acts as an agent for men and the masculine gender. It provides
Patriarchy engenders false consciousness in all the sexes and genders. For women, it internalises notions of desirable beauty standards, sense of being weak and helpless and thus a need for dependence on men for all kinds of support. Interestingly, patriarchy like many other social systems has antagonistic characters inherent in it. As patriarchy unfolds, the principal beneficiary of this social system, that is, the men themselves get affected by these contradictions in multiple ways. The glut of male entitlements provided by patriarchy develops a pernicious false consciousness among men and the upholders of hyper-masculinity. It provides them with a sense of unassailability which eventually develops into an exaggerated sense of invincibility among men. This can be easily gauged from the careless attitude of society towards mental health and physical safety of men, primarily that of boys.
The toxic masculinity has internalised the idea that men can’t be raped or harassed.
If any person deviates from opting such notions, they are called ‘girl-like’, ‘coward’ or ‘unfitting to be a man’. And this is where the false consciousness of unassailability amongst men makes them ignore their vulnerability to sexual/ physical abuse. People often say “Arre,
Also read: How Patriarchy Hurts Men Too
Boys often end up ignoring the possibility of sexual assaults and when they happen, they find it hard to believe it to be true. The toxic masculinity has internalised the idea that men can’t be raped or harassed. One of my friends narrated an instance of how her teenage brother was once stopped and harassed by a man who asked him if he watched pornography or masturbated.
Her brother’s story reminded me of the incident that happened to me when I was 15. I was going back home when a car stopped before me and the man in the car asked me if I could direct him to some address he was looking for. I readily said yes (this is where the idea of unassailability rendered by male entitlement was operative in my consciousness) and jumped into his car to show him the way. But on the way, he tried to touch me inappropriately and I realised that asking for the directions was just a ploy. When he realised that he couldn’t possibly get his way, he asked me to get out of the car and I walked back home more confused than shocked.
From the reports, it is patent that boys are also highly vulnerable to abuse in patriarchal setup. But patriarchal mindset doesn’t care about their safety, and fills their psyche with confidence that “men can’t be abused”
It was only a couple of years back that I realised the potential danger I faced then, with him in the car. My false consciousness found it hard to acknowledge that a boy could also be a victim of harassment. Another friend of mine was molested by his relative when he was 6 and was threatened to be thrown off the terrace if he dared to tell about that to any of his family members. I have heard many more heart-wrenching accounts of child abuse from my female friends. The idea is that child abuse is a real issue and every sex is vulnerable to it.
On this subject, research data produces a very grotesque picture. A report by Ministry of Women and Child Development, and research paper by Mannat Singh et. al. reveals that among the participants of the study on CSA, about 54.4% of boys and 45.6% of girls were victims of sexual assault. The collected data showed that higher percentages of boys were victims of various kinds of sexual abuses like forced touch to private parts, forcible kissing, exposure to pornographic content, obscene photography, and many more and in most cases, the perpetrator is either relative or friend.
From the reports, it is patent that boys are also highly vulnerable to abuse in patriarchal setup. But patriarchal mindset doesn’t care about their safety, fills their psyche with confidence that “men can’t be abused” or if they do they need to keep it a secret.
Hence there is a need to talk to children and make them more
Patriarch, as a system, is antithetical to everyone in society, even to its supposedly primary beneficiary, the men. And hence, we need to educate men about their vulnerability to such violence and dismantle the superficial idea of unassailability among them.
Akansh is a full-time researcher in a think-tank and part-time faculty
Featured Image Source: The Wisdom Daily