#MeToo Is For Men, And Also Not For Men–And That’s OK

Why #MeToo isn't about men but men can still participate-on bettysbattleground.com

How many #metoo tweets and posts have you seen lately? A lot, I’m guessing. A damn, devastating lot. Which was the point, of course. The campaign was started to demonstrate just how many women suffer sexual violence. As more and more women come out of the woodwork, we are seeing that so, so many women have experienced sexual assault or harassment. Like all of us, pretty much.

How many #metoo tweets and posts have you seen from men? The campaign, which began in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal in Hollywood (edit: apparently it actually began something like a decade ago, but was revived because of this scandal), was created to highlight the male-dominant culture that allows “everyday sexual violence” to be a thing in the lives of women. It’s become an opportunity for people previously silent about having experienced sexual assault and harassment to open up about it and relieve themselves of the burden of secrecy. That includes men, right?

The issue of whether or not men should be part of the #metoo conversation has become hotly contested. In some ways it has usurped the initial conversation this was intended to start, which by all accounts ain’t cool. But since I talk a lot about sexual assault and recovery on this blog, I don’t feel guilty taking a moment to examine the issue. Should men be included in #metoo?

Is it OK for men to the use the metoo hashtag? Leave your thoughts in the comments on bettysbattleground.com

#MeToo Is Also For Men

We know that rape culture affects men too. Toxic masculinity is the result of rape culture. This shows up in effects like the inability to express deep feelings that many men and boys in the United States experience. The pressure to conform to a culture of assholery that says relationships are dumb and using women for sex is cool. Difficult, over-muscled body ideals. Machismo. Men are affected by rape culture.

Men are also raped. Men and boys can be raped by both men and women, too. I’m sure that the men who are tweeting #metoo are telling the truth. They too were violated. I’ve known men who were sexually assaulted. It really messes them up, just as rape and sexual assault messes women up. I don’t want to say that male survivors of sexual assault have it worse; sexual assault is horrific no matter what gender experiences it. But sexual assault challenges the male identity that has been crafted by our toxic society. Men who survive these experiences often feel emasculated. Women who survive sexual assault feel many terrible things, but feeling “less female” isn’t one I’ve heard before. Less sexual, yes–I experience that myself. Less female, definitely not. In this society, being female is, crushingly, tied in with being vulnerable to assault.

I remember hearing the story of a male sexual assault survivor who was raped as a child. He was so confused and dehumanized by the experience that he felt excluded from dreaming. Yes, you read that right. He no longer felt that he had the right to aspire to anything. Another survivor of rape, who is gay, feared telling anyone because he didn’t want them to attribute his sexuality to the trauma.

Men are raped. Men are traumatized by rape. Men are silenced from speaking about their rape. If this moment gives you, a man, the courage to share your truth, then yes, by all means, empower yourself.

#MeToo Is Also Not For Men

The men who are tweeting #metoo are referring to a single incident, or a series of related incidents (probably perpetrated by the same assailant). When women tweet #metoo, we are referring to many, many ongoing incidents.

Take me, for example. When I tweet #metoo, I am not only referring to the statutory rape, date rape, and sexual coercion I experienced at the hands of The Ex. I’m also talking about the man who grabbed my ass in the street when I was eight years old. I’m also talking about the popular boy at my middle school who teased me relentlessly for having small breasts. The stranger at my middle school who called me fat at a school dance and inspired me to become anorexic. The two boys who were my friends that grabbed my ass repeatedly without my permission as we walked home. I’m also talking about the guy who followed me across two buses into my high school when I was 14. The various men who solicited me for prostitution when I was a teenager. The homeless guy who invited me to smoke weed with him at age 16 and then grabbed my breasts when I was stoned. The guy who dated me for a couple weeks, only to reveal–disappointed–that he’d been with me because he wanted to have sex with a virgin. The men who gave me a ride home from the Rainbow Gathering when I was 16, and talked loudly about how fucking me in the ass would “break me.” I’m also talking about my heroin addicted friend who pulled his penis out while we waited for dope and demanded I assure him it was an okay size before putting it back in his pants; who another time attempted to sell me for drugs as though he could. I’m also talking about the friend of my tattoo artist who used to make jokes and watch me get tattoos while my breast or crotch were exposed, and that was supposed to be okay. I’m also talking about my tattoo artist, who had sex with me without disclosing his Hep C status. I’m also talking about the countless guys who have catcalled me from car windows, or told me to smile while walking down the street. The guy who called me a bitch for no reason in the grocery store two months ago. The homeless guy who sat next to me last summer, then told me how plump my breasts looked “for a mom.” I’m also talking about the co-worker who constantly joked about having sex with me, and then acted offended when I finally told him off–“I’m just kidding, jeez, I’m married.” The other guys in the elevator with us who said nothing. I’m also talking about the stranger who grabbed me in the dark street, dragged me down to the sidewalk and attempted to rape me. I’m also talking about my father, who didn’t believe me when I told him–because not believing is a form of violence too. I’m also talking about all the things I didn’t write here, but they are too common to recall. And all the things I didn’t write here, because they are too scary too recall. I’m also talking about the fact that some days I don’t go outside at all, not because I don’t want to be around people, like I say aloud, but because I don’t want to be female around people. I’m also talking about the fact that some days I want to kill myself just because I’m tired of being a woman in this world.

It is a terrible thing to be raped, no matter your gender. But it is a whole other thing to experience sexual violence as a daily experience. And for women–or people who present as women–that is the reality. That is what #metoo is about. That is why it’s not for men.

Don’t Be That Guy

We all derive courage from seeing others do the thing we are most afraid of. If this trend has given you the courage to speak your truth as a sexual assault survivor, then yes, please do it. But don’t change the conversation. Don’t make the whole damn thing about you. Understand, please, that while you deserve to heal, this hashtag is about more than a single experience, or a single person’s experience. It is about a collective experience that women around the globe are having, and you are not. You just are not.

Then there’s the issue that this is an awareness campaign that is kind of all about men. It’s about the experiences of women at the hands of men. If men truly want to be a part of #metoo, I invite you to do it! Yes, participate! Participate by not sexually harassing women. Participate by calling out other guys who do it. Participate by calling out other guys who do it even when there are not other women around. Let’s squash rape culture once and for all, shall we? If that sounds impossible, you’re not trying hard enough. Rape culture ends when you choose not to rape, or condone rape and other forms of sexual violence. If you think you’re not part of the problem, good sir, I guarantee you are.

A man who I knew as a boy got very offended by this campaign. He wrote “Me Too, and if I thought any of you cared, I’d tell you the details.” I understand the pain of feeling unheard, but in the comments below his post, he tried to claim the campaign was a power play. He tried to say that gendering this issue is wrong. The conversation grew uglier and uglier until he was literally deleting the words of women who gave cohesive counter-arguments and then saying no one was giving a good argument why he was wrong. He said that he was sick of seeing white men having to apologize for being white men. And then he said something that shocked me even more. In response to a comment I said about the complictness of people who call known abusers “alright guys,” he said, “Who called your abuser that? Certainly not me.”

Ten years ago, this man who I knew as a boy worked at a phone sales company alongside my abuser. I went there one day, trying to find my boyfriend, pregnant and in tears, I don’t remember about what. He wasn’t there, but this boy was. I asked him, “have you seen my boyfriend.” He said, “no,” he wasn’t in that day. I don’t know why, but in that moment, I broke down. I confessed. I told the man I knew as a boy how badly my boyfriend was treating me. How he hit me–and worse. And the man I knew as a boy replied,

“He actually seems like an alright guy to me.”

More men are complicit in this violence than you realize. We don’t want you to apologize for being men. We just want you to stop making us fear being women.

10 thoughts on “#MeToo Is For Men, And Also Not For Men–And That’s OK

  1. Wow,
    Sad.Very sad. I keep hoping that this model will soon die out. I keep thinking that males in their sixties and seventies are the ones who carry this torch but there is this rape culture that seems to be tied to colleges and bars and groups of men, that when alone, would not do or say the things they do when they are around their homies. Then there are the ones that feel they have the right to take what they want because they feel something and if they can’t get it honestly( which is a funny way of saying that because mostly they want sex and lie to get it), they use drugs or plain rape. Weinstein and Cosby come to mind. I don’t know if it will ever end.
    I’m sorry that you have gone through so much. I kind of understand the feeling of not wanting to be objectified. I had been sexually abused by my older half sister, which almost seems to have had a worse effect than the abuse I received from my dad and my brother and a male neighbor. My mom also crossed some major boundaries that completely screwed my head up. Because I am somehow amazingly rooted straight, I have panicked when women have come on to me. That has happened a lot. I’ve had women practically climb into my lap (as happened on a public bus) but it was never in a way that was violent. But it freaked me out.
    My first relationship was with an older woman who should have been locked up in a mental institution. When I left that relationship, I swore I would never be with another woman again. It wasn’t like your relationship, but it was a lot of mental abuse. She stalked me into my next relationship, which happened to be a Playboy playmate. I literally thought this woman would eventually kill me. She finally gave up.
    I think it is the older generation of males that have set the course for this abuse. I t wasn’t that long ago that women couldn’t vote. I think it’s a shame about how rape kits are processed, leaving thousands of these hard gained rape evidence kits laying fallow in some storage room because it is not a priority.
    I talked to a girl who is now going to school to become a therapist. She was raped. She waited, afraid to go through the process of being violated again by a stranger for evidence. This male that befriended her, lured her into a situation under the guise of friendship and raped her. She’s angry because he is still out there, possibly committing this crime again and again. All of those unprocessed rape kits have a treasure trove of information that could put many re-offending creeps behind bars. It’s still not a priority. I don’t know why. I think why I am on the side of these women is because I have been a abuse victim for 18 years.
    I think Wienstein is a start. I think that women have born the brunt of this abuse more than in any other industry, because looks are key to getting parts. I tried out for a part in a television movie for Susan Lucie, called “Mafia Princess.” I had just quit Labelle modeling school in Santa Barbara because I just was a lousy model but I had some cool looking jackets and moussed my hair and I guess I looked like a gumba. The guy who picked me to be an extra called me up later and propositioned me. Because of my issues I never went back and there went my t.v. career. This has led to weight issues at times, trying to hide in plain sight. I sometimes am angry because I don’t want to be attractive. I like it, but I also have issues with it because of the use of my body as a sexual torture landscape.
    My half sister was ten and I was five. There is a photo of us standing together the day after she abused me. I look like a tiny mouse standing next to her as she was about 3 feet taller than me. I am practically dislocating my shoulder so my body doesn’t have to touch hers. She was also mean. Which was the result of my father sexually abusing her as well. The work I’m doing with my female therapist is helping me handle attraction from women. I just keep repeating that it I am not a child and this is not abuse.
    Enjoyed the article. Spotlight (the movie) brought up this issue of abuse and the Catholic church. Men have suffered as well but are less likely to talk about it. I think pedophiles and rapists should be either killed or locked up for life. I volunteer for a group called HELP which is a service for seniors and the disabled. We had a guy on my bus who had abused a young girl and he was in his early eighties. I wore gloves because occasionally he needed me to pull him out of his seat. I wouldn’t allow his hands to touch mine. Nobody liked him. And of course he lived in this trailer, right next to the entryway, in this trailer park that was next to a K-6 grade school. I was getting ready to call it in when I found out he had died. Good riddance.
    Once again, sorry for all of your suffering. Hang in there.

    • I hesitated with the wording on that because I know some men do experience repeated, sometimes chronic sexual abuse, like what you’ve described here. And that’s awful. You do not deserve that by any means. So I in no way wish to belittle that trauma. I simply wanted to highlight that, even in comparison to men who experience multiple recurring major sexual traumas, women in general experience sexual violence as a norm–a woman could go through her life never experiencing anything as wholly traumatic as what you’ve experienced, but she will still likely live her life with at least some kind of credible fear of sexual assault, based on experiences of harassment that she’s had throughout her teenage and adult life (at least).

      I also just want to point out that in fact women in Hollywood are NOT higher targets because it’s a beauty industry. That is a misconception that we have a society because those are the stories that get told, share and heard. I pitched this, and I so hope I get to write it because it’s so important. “Ugly” women, and women in non-beauty industries are harassed and assaulted just as much. Hell, some of the worst things happen to women at factory jobs. So it’s *not* a Hollywood-centric thing, or something that happens more to the beautiful starlets in LA. We just hear their stories more because they are rich and enchanting.

      I’m sorry for your suffering too. Male, female, rich, poor, heard, or not…none of us deserve this violence.

  2. Good point. My therapist, whose father incested/raped her for 18 years told me the same as you mention. I actually gave her a a flashlight for Christmas that had a strobe on it because she had to walk through a dark parking lot to her car, as I did my female boss at HELP. as she is a jogger and runs in predawn darkness. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to fear that this is a possibility at any moment. I imagine you all prepare for that time, or for that event, and have to gird yourself mentally for that. You have experienced some pretty extreme events, so I understand your fear of leaving home.
    I think we have a long way to go with this issue. Unexamined rape kits are kind of an iconic underlining of what our society values as important. Women still take men’s names in marriage, though that is changing somewhat. I think what should be a necessity, is to teach girls to self defend. My therapist has a black belt in karate and is tall for a woman. My ex, the Playmate has a black belt, maybe a second degree belt in karate.
    I watched a video of a woman in an elevator. This skeevy guy gets in her personal space. The second time he gets more aggressive, she turns and beats the crap out of the guy. I enjoyed watching it. Keesha, in the current Rolling Stone, mentioned a time when a male touched her breast. She asked him if that was accidental or intentional. When the guy said he intended to do it, she punched him in the face. I think this violence has to be met head on with violence.
    I read a series in the L.A. Times about this sociopath who wormed his way into this family, seducing the mother and isolating her, eventually threatening her with financial peril if she didn’t give him what he wanted. When she decided to lawyer up and take him on, he decided to kill her shy daughter. The one that believed he actually liked her. He waited for her in this parking structure, a butcher knife hidden in a Taco Bell bag. He didn’t expect her to fight back and she fought like the Devil and turned the tables on him and got the knife away from him and killed him with it.
    I guess in these times, if I was a female, I would learn how to take a guy down fast. I would have mace on me at all times, with a tazer perhaps. I hope this doesn’t come across as blaming you. Just seems that there are so many assaults. Learning to fight dirty would be a way to level the playing field. I have put myself in a woman’s shoes and I would feel unsafe walking to my car at night, let alone taking out the trash at night. Or being alone in a house at night. Maybe you can educate me on this, as you are right about rape occurring to woman who aren’t super models.

    • Well so there are some problematic things here in what you’ve said, and some that I agree with.

      To lead with what I agree with: it is empowering for women who have been victimized (either personally or socially)…for that matter anyone who has been victimized…to exercise and learn self-defense. This knowledge alone takes care of some of the fear of being assaulted..not all of it, but it helps. When I was assaulted by a stranger in Colorado, the reason it was an attempted rape and not a completed rape was because my husband taught me some Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He’s not a blackbelt, but he’s won some medals at tournaments. He taught me some basic moves, and a friend from the military had also taught me a similar defensive move a couple years earlier. Also, my crazed PTSD rage. When I was being abused by my ex, I had never experienced anything like that. I had the freeze response, and there’s nothing shameful about that; it’s a natural response. But now that I have PTSD, and I hold so much rage in my body, I’ve discovered that when I am attacked, I essentially blackout and go nuts. If I ever killed an assailant, I would have a very good diminished capacity case because I truly lose all reason and have no recollection of the events. I have about a 60 second black out from that night, but my husband and I did our best to recreate what most likely happened based on my last and next memories, and it appears I did some of the moves he taught me. I don’t think I hurt the guy, but I put up enough of a fight that he decided to steal my phone and run away instead of raping me. When he saw me, I’m sure he pegged me as an easy target: a young, thin woman in a short skirt walking alone in the middle of the night, likely drunk (I was). He was a predator and wanted easy prey. When he didn’t get that, he gave up. I fully support women empowering themselves through martial arts, exercise, self-defense, etc.

      However, a nationwide program like this would be problematic for many reasons. First, it places the burden of prevent rape on women. It’s one thing for a woman to say she wants to get healthy and strong and learn to fight; it’s another to create an anti-rape program that focuses on teaching women to do anything. If an anti-rape program emerges from these awareness campaigns, as it should, it very much needs to focus on men. It needs to teach men not to rape; not women how to avoid being raped. The fact is, self-defense can help but it’s still not a guarantee. What about gang rape situations? What about highly intoxicated women (I was only a little tipsy, not wasted)? What about situations in which the woman trusts her assailant? What about a man who’s also a blackbelt? It just wouldn’t work…and it would promote the idea that the burden is on women, which is what’s wrong with the way our culture functions now. The burden needs to be on men. We don’t need to be teaching our women and girls how to fight off rapey men and boys; we need to teach men and boys how not to rape. And I say boys because this needs to start young. It starts with the idea that women’s bodies don’t exist to pleasure men. It starts with the idea that a beautiful woman is not a prize. If I’m going to be totally honest Steve, and I don’t mean to offend you because I appreciate that you read my blog and take the time to leave thoughtful comments, but even the way YOU talk about this Playmate you once dated–and the fact that you constantly refer to her that way–is a reflection of this attitude. It’s not your fault; it’s how men and boys are socialized. But that’s what needs to change, and it starts with the men today realizing it, changing it, and then teaching and exemplifying that change to the men of tomorrow. Whadaya say? On board?

      • Actually, to be honest with you, she refers to herself as a Playmate and is very proud of her work. She modeled for Helmut Newton as well as throughout Europe. I refer to her as a Playmate because I don’t want to mention her name. I have dated women who are considered normal looking. I actually like normal, preferentially to “model types.” I think women of all ages, and sizes are beautiful. I think lumping me into a category because I accidentally ended up dating a Playmate is not exactly fair, though I am not in a corner crying about it. Plus you didn’t know that this is how I came to meet her.
        I was a landscaper and she had been retired for ten years from Playboy and was living a quiet life in my town. She called me to give her a price on taking care of her yard. We fell in love and were together for seven years. End of story.
        I agree with you that the onus is on men but the reality of that changing any time soon seems to be a pipe dream. We still have a culture that protects athletes and warriors as these are time honored, male positions. Heroes. Who happen to sometimes believe that they are above the law and special and should be able to take what they want when they want it. Boys will be boys. That kind of thing.
        Weinstein may be a huge ripple that turns to a tsunami like wave of awareness about rape culture, about what women have gone through. I t could be the very thing that helps awareness rise about this, though we do have a rapist in chief right now and nobody seems to be upset about his abuses anymore.
        Teaching women to self defend, in my opinion, is not me saying that you should be responsible. I’m just saying that giving a woman tools to defend herself seems to be a good idea. I had hoped for a female president and felt it was time. I think this country is sitting on a festering pile of misogynistic, white male anger. And I am sad to say that this country is not ready for a female president because of these issues which have been there, though somewhat camouflaged. I was raised by my mom and see women as equals, as I have about seven female bosses and have no problem with that.
        I f I had a daughter, I would enroll her in self defense classes. What your boyfriend taught you saved you. This is a good thing. Teach women self defense and raising awareness with males about respect and honoring the feminine. Maybe these will chart a tandem course and blend together at some point. Men still are trying to control a woman’s body and her rights to be a woman and be considered equal. A lot of fear there. I am sad about that and hopeful that this will change at some point. Me too.

        • You misunderstood what I was saying about the girlfriend thing. Maybe it was my fault; I’m sick right now and probably not communicating as well as normal. You have every right to date and love or even just lust after a woman who models for Playboy, and she has every right to be proud of her career accomplishments. I was talking about the way you talk about her, her model status, and her appearance sometimes…without saying her name, you could call her your ex, but instead you call her the Playmate, and have referred to her sexiness is a psuedo-accusatory manner, “I went to a house filled with alcohol because she was a Playmate.” Even in this statement, there’s some iffy language,
          but I’m not trying to alienate you, just pointing something to out because you seem like someone who genuinely cares…but you may also not be ready to hear this or face this issue. I don’t know.

          Anyway, as I said, women empowering themselves is wonderful but I just think implementing that kind of program is sending the wrong kind of message. I also think that the only reason we’re “not ready” or that kind of change seems “impossible now,” is because men are choosing to make it impossible. I hope we get those ripples of awareness too, but honestly it’s only going to happen when men decide to face their culpability…all men, because all men have a role in this, even if some men have a smaller role than others, which I do acknowledge and believe.

          • Sorry that you’re sick. I thought about it and I do remember that she was very tight lipped about it. We talked over a period of 6 months before we hooked up and she hid the truth from me until right before we got involved. She thought I might not want to date her because of her past as a Playmate. I thought it was way cool.
            Unconsciously or consciously, referencing her as a Playmate is, in a sense, about my feelings that I can’t believe that I ended up with a model. Considering how I felt about myself and my feelings that I didn’t deserve this kind of special, there is a modicum of pride that a person with such low expectations of himself and terrible low self esteem, pulled this off. I do feel prideful about having had that one amazing life experience. I am a rape survivor and have had a lot of shitty, awful experiences. Pretty amazing to be with a woman that was craved by many and I ended up with her. So not sure what to think about this, though I will still reference her as the Playmate. Just to annoy you.
            I don’t know what part you don’t understand. I agree men are the problem but should women just sit around and not learn how to defend themselves? This is an ancient system that has been with us for quite some time. Men need to wake up change their behavior, I agree, but there is no leadership to support this. If a girl is raped by the son of some important official, ten times out of ten, the town turns against the girl and her family and they are chased out of town. And then ,more often than not, the girl commits suicide. Until things get better, women should be able to defend themselves. That Trump was elected after the things he had said is a statement about where we are concerning women and our treatment of them. It’s not safe out there. Why does it take so many women to prove that one man like Cosby, has been raping women for decades? Why can’t one voice be enough? I think the twenty somethings and younger will be the ones that start to make changes to this system. The youth are our only hope.

  3. BETTY, thanks for your empathy. I guess I just have to say I don’t have to worry about a woman climbing through my window to rape me, or being assaulted in a parking lot by a woman. It’s a whole different bag.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *