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Posted by Akansh Khandelwal

Trigger warning: Sexual assault

Patriarchy as a social system acts as an agent for men and the masculine gender. It provides them a package of male entitlements and a sense of privilege. Exercising of these entitlements gives men a sense of overconfidence which develops into a behaviour marked by audacity, oppression, and dominance.

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.

Concerns about vulnerability of men, particularly boys, are barely seen among parents in general and in individuals in particular. Immediate guardians/ parents of boys are generally unperturbed when it comes to sending them to neighbourhood or with relatives/ friends/ strangers. Not just guardians, even boys as individuals, are hardly concerned about their safety. We, as boys, may prefer to pass through the shadiest of the streets, or hang out with the strangers without getting flickered by the threats to our safety. Performing such acts boosts our sense hyper-masculinity and further nourishes the idea of unassailability among us.

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, ladkon ka kya bigadna hai, safety problem to ladkiyon ke lie hoti hai(What harm will happen to boys, safety issues are a concern for girls). Indeed the second phrase is extremely correct, girls do face problems, but we need to acknowledge the fact that every sex is threatened by the system of patriarchy.

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 aware of their safety and treat any form of sexual abuse meted out to anyone (regardless of sex) with the same condemnation.

Also read: How The Men’s Rights Movement Hurts Male Survivors Of Sexual Assault

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 in Delhi University. His interests vary from cooking and baking, to reading, to traveling to, spending time making social, political and economic observations. You can follow him on Instagram.

Featured Image Source: The Wisdom Daily

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