Sexual Violence and the Men Left Behind: Surviving Through Resistance
[Trigger warning]: This post includes recounting of sexual trauma and may be difficult for some to read.
Sexual Violence and
the Men Left Behind:
Surviving Through Resistance
I have recently come to terms with the fact that I am a survivor of sexual assault.
I should have admitted this months ago.
What’s remarkable about my situation, how it arose, and how I ignored it so long is probably not that remarkable at all. What I find remarkable was how long it took me to admit it and how insidious the framework that enabled my denial is. I look back on the causes of my experience and my insistence on ignoring it and I find multiple agents in this horrific process, yet only one direct root; that of patriarchy and those unwilling to challenge it.
Let me give context for my story. A longtime sufferer of depression and related psychological problems, I have within my short years resorted to a variety of methods for management of my negative feelings. I have tried booze, sex, romance, employment, schooling… I have used many ways to distract myself from dealing with the intensity of being unhappy. None of them worked.
Far beyond “not working,” drug abuse ended up being ultimately the most destructive. Addiction wrecked my life for a very long time. I probably almost lost my life to hard drugs, and while I have since begun the process of understanding the reasons for my use and its implications and consequences, I have never ever let myself admit something horrible that happened to me while high.
I was sexually assaulted.
This is not a new story. Any drug addict probably has a hidden story like this. A story where they initiated a sexual encounter while high, got in a situation they couldn’t control, and had something…. disturbing happen. In my case, I would get high, seek out sex, find it with people that I wasn’t comfortable with… And not know how to stop it. I didn’t want what was happening to me; I wanted the very opposite. I was too fucked up to communicate that I wanted this to stop, and months later I must admit that I have been violated in several instances that I can hazily identify.
This happens all the time, and our culture has in a very limited way begun to acknowledge this. Specifically among radicals, badass feminists have fearlessly tackled rape and sexual violence and are demanding that we acknowledge its root: patriarchy.
My story has an additional dimension, however, and maybe one that will cause a bit of discomfort. The person in my story was not a woman. It is not the person that we normally view as the victim of sexual trauma, though that is heartbreakingly more common than most are willing to admit.
I am a queer male-assigned person, and I have had my consent violated.
Let me preface by saying that my analysis of my violations at the hands of patriarchy and its agents is not a denial of my privilege; I claim neither the struggle nor the pain of my female comrades. I walk the street every day assuming, for the most part accurately, that I will not be harassed nor physically assaulted. However, we must assess that our reluctance to admit that men are victims of rape is not a reluctance borne out of logic and reason but instead out of an attachment to the trappings and illusions of patriarchy. In short, men are tricked into thinking they cannot be victims of sexual assault.
This is complicated. It is not that we male-assigned and male-privileged folks do not admit that someone may forcibly overpower us and take advantage of us. Anyone of us could have that happen and at least one small, terrified part of us knows that. However, something we do in fact ignore is that our consent can be violated. People, when we are unable to object or cannot stop a sexual act being performed on us, can take advantage and rape us. This is a fact.
Why do we not reach this conclusion, and why do our fellow queer men assume that they may have sex with us when we are obviously unable to decide for ourselves? The answer is stealthily formulated within patriarchy, with multiple devious angles of trickery and lies.
The first lie that patriarchy teaches queer men is that we are all desirous of sex at all times. We are taught that when someone comes onto us, touches us, tries to have sex with us, we must as men respond positively. Men are always horny right? So if we deny someone sex, are we then something other than men (the desire to be a real man being, of course, being an entirely different patriarchal paradigm to be attacked in a less lengthy essay)? So many of us fall silent, acquiesce, and consent to the violation of our physicality simply because we assume that the absence of sexual arousal is denied to us.
The second lie patriarchy teaches us is that we are always in control. As persons who have penises (and a remarkable amount of privilege which is accorded to that particular body part), we are socialized to think that nothing can happen to us that is not within our power to stop. I learned in an all-too-common story that control is not always ours. I learned that sometimes I put substances in my body that made it impossible to determine what was correct or how I could stop something horrible from happening to me. I learned that even men can be helpless. That was a terrible lesson to learn.
The third lie that we face in dealing with rape is that patriarchy tells us we cannot openly and tearfully admit our trauma. Hell, I haven’t been able to face the facts of my experience in months. I have faked happiness, denied what happened to me, disassociated myself with trauma… all because I knew that if I admitted that I have had men take advantage of my insensate state I would have been admitting weakness that I was not prepared to accept. Admit the fact that I was a drug addict? Difficult, but not all too terribly demeaning. Admit the fact that someone was able to physically dominate me and take liberties I would not– could not– have given them?
The supremacy of the male sex in our societies and cultures has not only left a legacy of unspeakable horror and terror on our female-assigned friends. As I begin to unpack the injustices that patriarchy has inflicted upon me in the form of sexual violence, I understand these lies and what they have done to me. No, I don’t always want to have sex. Yes, sometimes I am helpless to someone else’s aggression. And hell yes, I must admit my trauma.
I don’t want this to happen to me again. Rape is everywhere, and I must resist it. In order to do so, we must not cease to combat and challenge patriarchy in its most obvious and recognized forms, to include resisting the subjugation of women. Without detracting from that desperate struggle, we must admit something that our male pride will not allow us to: we are capable of victimhood and trauma. We must heal from that trauma. We must admit that rape happens to us and deal with it by name.
I am a survivor of sexual assault, but I refuse to be a victim of patriarchy. Not in the same way, never again. I will work through this, and I will hurt while I do so, and by doing so I spit in the face of the oppressive constructs that have informed me since I first was assigned my sex; by surviving I outlive that oppression. I choose, as a method of survival, to resist and fight back.
Will you choose to survive with me?