The Normalization of Sexual Assault Against Men

I’ve long been of the opin­ion, and spo­ken pub­licly about the dou­ble-stan­dard that exists in Western soci­ety, at least, when it comes to vio­lence against men vs. vio­lence against women, and sex­u­al assault against men vs. sex­u­al assault against women.  The fact of the mat­ter is, of course, that there should be no “vs,” and no debate about the fact that, basi­cal­ly, what is good for the goose is good for the gan­der when it comes to vio­lence.  In some ways that is hap­pen­ing — I often think she must have been mighty sur­prised and unhap­py, and right­ly so, when I read the local news and see that some girl­friend or oth­er called the police because her boyfriend “grabbed her arm” and, along with him, she also was arrest­ed because he grabbed her arm in response to her push­ing him.  No doubt while screech­ing hys­ter­i­cal­ly some­thing like “You can’t put your hands on me,” or “Go on … Go on … Hit me!!  Hit me!!!  DO IT!!” so she could run cry­ing to the police and wear the badge of “vic­tim” of “domes­tic vio­lence.”  And while both of these “vic­tims” of “domes­tic vio­lence” (yes it all does deserve quo­ta­tion marks) are charged with the same offence(s), appear in the same court (often a spe­cial “domes­tic vio­lence” court) I have this sneak­ing sus­pi­cion that so-called “Victim Services” at the court will be quite dif­fer­ent for the female involved in “domes­tic vio­lence” than for the male.  By the way, what makes any vic­tim of crime “spe­cial”?  I find it odd and trou­bling, actu­al­ly, that var­i­ous police ser­vices choose the name “Special Victims Unit” to sin­gle out a par­tic­u­lar group of peo­ple:  Is any vic­tim of crime fun­da­men­tal­ly more enti­tled to any­thing (how their case is han­dled, sen­si­tiv­i­ty, ser­vices, sup­port, jus­tice) than anoth­er vic­tim?  Words have mean­ing, and par­tic­u­lar­ly in offi­cial capacity/use words mat­ter and their mean­ings have impact, inten­tion­al or unin­ten­tion­al, con­scious or sub­con­scious.

I reflect on a sex­u­al assault case involv­ing a young man that I met a few years ago:  Throughout the two years that his life was ruined and he was on house arrest over the charges the “vic­tim” repeat­ed­ly con­tact­ed him, send­ing many text mes­sages and emails pro­fess­ing her sin­cere apolo­gies for what had hap­pened, stat­ing that she made it up, she was afraid he was going to leave her, she was sor­ry, she didn’t think it would get this out of hand, she’s tried to stop the train-wreck but now that she has start­ed it the police and pros­e­cu­tion won’t stop “in case she’s being threat­ened or coerced to with­draw her state­ments.”  At the start of a tri­al sched­uled over the course of a week the pros­e­cu­tion sim­ply announced they were with­draw­ing the charges.  That’s it.  No admis­sion or even sug­ges­tion that they got it wrong.  No com­pen­sa­tion, assis­tance, coun­selling or pat on the shoul­der for the accused (well … maybe a pat on the shoul­der, from his defense attor­ney) whose life had been turned upside down (sev­er­al years lat­er he has still not recov­ered finan­cial­ly or oth­er­wise).  And, to add insult to injury, out in the hall­way was wait­ing good old “Victim Services” to escort the “vic­tim” down to an office where free legal ser­vices were avail­able to “women” (no men­tion of men) to sue the bad men who had so vio­lat­ed them … but the crim­i­nal court didn’t buy it.  You see, because the “bur­den of proof” in civ­il court is dif­fer­ent (beyond a rea­son­able doubt vs a bal­ance of prob­a­bil­i­ties), and they could like­ly shake­down the now for­mer­ly accused man and get him to fork over mon­ey, or at least a promise to pay when he got a job again, in order to avoid years of his life being dragged through civ­il court.  But no, if you were won­der­ing, there were no “ser­vices” wait­ing in the hall, or else­where, to do any­thing for the young man who had been not just wrong­ly accused, but wrong­ly accused with mali­cious intent.

Where I’m from if you order one of those you’d get kicked in the nuts.  — Joe Sasto III, Los Angeles

Now, I real­ize that was one heck of a long intro­duc­tion to get to where I was going; although I’m glad I got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get that down on paper, as it were.  Tonight I watched S15E06 Now That’s a Lot of Schnitzel” of the hit U.S. real­i­ty food/cooking com­pe­ti­tion Top Chef.  Part of the con­tes­tants’ chal­lenge was to cre­ate their own ver­sion of the radler, a German bev­er­age.  Apparently Chef Joe Sasto III from Los Angeles had a prob­lem with, pre­sum­ably, how non-mas­cu­line such a bev­er­age is and stat­ed, “Where I’m from if you order one of those you’d get kicked in the nuts.”  With his imp­ish twinkly-eyed gaze and Rich Uncle Pennybags mus­tache I’d actu­al­ly be inclined to guess that Joe would very much enjoy suck­ing on a German radler.  And, as far as where he is from — per­haps he means pri­or to mov­ing to Los Angeles?  Because California, in gen­er­al, and Los Angeles, in par­tic­u­lar, is exact­ly where I’d expect fruity beer drinks to be lapped up.  Maybe Joe per­son­al­ly asso­ciates more with the image of a tough swash­buck­ling beer guz­zling Home On The Range cow­boy of yore.

TOP CHEF -- Season:15 -- Pictured: Joe Sasto -- (Photo by: Tommy Garcia/Bravo)
TOP CHEF — Season:15 — Pictured: Joe Sasto — (Photo by: Tommy Garcia/Bravo)

Imagine, if you will — and it cer­tain­ly is rather a dis­taste­ful image/thought, I agree — if Joe Sasto III, or indeed any­body said, pub­licly and in all seri­ous­ness, that where they are from if a woman ordered a par­tic­u­lar mas­cu­line drink, at odds with her fem­i­nin­i­ty (or imposed stan­dard of such), she would be kicked (vio­lent­ly phys­i­cal­ly assault­ed) in the vagi­na (or any oth­er term that could be used in place of vagi­na — because “nuts,” as used by Mr. Sasto is a slang term, while vagi­na is not).  Can you imag­ine that?  No, of course you can’t, because you are a nor­mal, sane, moral and right-think­ing indi­vid­ual.  And, to be clear, I don’t actu­al­ly hold it against Joe Sasto for what he said, to be hon­est; but I do take umbrage with Top Chef giv­ing a plat­form to what real­ly does amount to triv­i­al­iza­tion of sex­u­al vio­lence against men, at best, and pos­si­bly a threat.  Again, just make the change that I sug­gest­ed above — state that where you are from a woman would be kicked in the vagi­na if she ordered a par­tic­u­lar drink — and then ask your­self would Top Chef have aired that par­tic­u­lar com­ment from a con­tes­tant?  I’d say that no they would not have and, in fact, I wouldn’t be sur­prised in 2018 if they announced that the par­tic­u­lar con­tes­tant had been asked to leave the con­test because of “trou­bling state­ments,” “cre­at­ing a hos­tile atmos­phere,” or vio­lat­ing some inter­sec­tion­al writ­ten con­tract clause.  To clar­i­fy again, I’m not advo­cat­ing that Mr. Sasto be elim­i­nat­ed from the pro­gram (too late for that any­way) over his com­ment.

We live in a soci­ety and cul­ture where kick­ing a man in the balls is com­e­dy gold.  For some rea­son, how­ev­er, kick­ing a women in the twat is “vio­lence against women” and requires “stand­ing up” and “speak­ing out” and “rais­ing aware­ness” and “zero tol­er­ance” … not to men­tion #MeToo and oth­er pithy hash­tags.  Why is that?  I’d sug­gest that peo­ple can let the men­tal acro­bat­ics start and offer up all kinds of rea­son­ing and argu­ment as to how and why “but that is dif­fer­ent,” how­ev­er, hon­esty real­ly is the best pol­i­cy — hon­esty with our­selves, most impor­tant­ly — so let’s be hon­est and admit that fun­da­men­tal­ly there is zero dif­fer­ence; and from a prac­ti­cal per­spec­tive we need per­haps to engage in both a per­son­al (our­selves, fam­i­ly, friends, imme­di­ate cir­cle and com­mu­ni­ties) and wider soci­etal and cul­tur­al dia­logue about vio­lence, dis­crim­i­na­tion, and harass­ment that involves and is just as much about men, indeed all per­sons (if you buy into the mod­ern non-bina­ry gen­der clap­trap), as poten­tial and real “vic­tims” (a word that I have dif­fi­cul­ty with in some cas­es — like many “domes­tic vio­lence” cas­es — giv­en how it has been used and abused over the past decade or so) and not the con­tin­ued per­pe­tra­tion of the myth that some how and in some way “but it’s dif­fer­ent” when it involves women as the “vic­tims” or men as the tar­gets of the abuse  —  or com­e­dy, depend­ing on how you like to view it.

We are left with three pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios (choic­es):  Either men and women are equal in this domain also, and there­fore kick­ing a man in the nuts (or jok­ing about it or nor­mal­iz­ing or triv­i­al­iz­ing it pub­licly) is just as wrong as it would be if the sit­u­a­tion involved kick­ing a woman in the vagi­na.  Or, sec­ond­ly, men and woman are not equal in this domain and there­fore it is dif­fer­ent when a man gets kicked in the nuts vs. when a woman gets kicked in the vagi­na, as is the jok­ing, nor­mal­iza­tion and triv­i­al­iza­tion of it.  In that case I would sug­gest that we need to get into a more thought­ful and detailed analy­sis and dis­cus­sion of how and why it’s dif­fer­ent, along with some oth­er fac­tors, and whether or not that dif­fer­ence and those oth­er fac­tors makes it accept­able (per­haps there is a dif­fer­ence, but the con­clu­sion is that it is equal­ly as unac­cept­able as vio­lence against women).  And final­ly — and no woman is going to accept this option — both men and women are equal, there is no fun­da­men­tal or prac­ti­cal dif­fer­ence suf­fi­cient to war­rant treat­ing the par­ties dif­fer­ent­ly, and kick­ing a woman in the twat should be just as much accept­ed, nor­mal­ized, triv­i­al­ized and become tele­vi­sion and movie com­ic gold as kick­ing a man in the nuts.  Again, how­ev­er, I can hear an over­whelm­ing cho­rus of “but that’s dif­fer­ent.”


The double standards of violence against men vs violence against women.
The dou­ble stan­dards of vio­lence against men vs vio­lence against women.


Leave a Reply

Notify of