In the last few weeks more than 20 former footballers so far have come forward with allegations of historical child sex abuse from senior officials from teams including Sheffield FC,Tottenham Hotspurs , Manchester City and others. Much has been said of the investigation that will come in the following months but little about the neglect that has taken place and more specifically so, the reality that when it comes to preventing sexual abuse against boys – seldom do we give it the adequate attention and the context that is imperative in the conversation.
When we speak about sexual abuse, the discourse and means of prevention that follow are often centered around young girls. Understandably, within a context of the sexualisation of girls facilitated by a patriarchal, hyper sexual mass media, such concerns are warranted, however my fear is that far too often we have left boys behind and rendered them largely vulnerable to abuses that have been around for years and those that are now coming to light.
Men and young boys, contrary to much myth spend much time in close proximity with one another in rather intimate spaces. Changing rooms have been constructed as hyper masculine, heterosexual spaces that espouse homophobic, patriarchal,‘locker room talk’. In creating such discourse, critical examination for the possibility of such abuses taking place.
Coupled with such appearances , dominant patriarchal discussion of men being strong, ‘real men’ and unsusceptible means that even thinking of such abuses committed towards young boys by other men is seemingly unfathomable. It is easier to discuss girls are being victims of sexual abuse, because our culture is one that is very much comfortable with female victimisation and powerlessness. Public discussions of vulnerability within such a context are often made synonymous with femininity and so where we look to prevent with girls, we circumvent when it comes to protecting boys to continue to upload patriarchal dogma to which many hold so dear.
Sexual abuse when pertaining to girls is treated starkly differently to that of boys. When females have been sexually abused we assume they will be eternally traumatised and narratives that portray such notions are not hard to find: Precious,The Colour Purple and many more. However when it comes to exploring realities of male sexual abuse, often it is not discussed at all, but when it is – too many a time, it is mocked. Hollywood has played a large role in making a joke out of male sexual assault, particularly in the context sexual abuse within prisons. This is not only harmful but extremely detrimental, making it more difficult for men to come out and speak about being victims of sexual abuse. Male vulnerability and victimisation is not treated in the same way and thus the reality that 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused is often not a large public discussion.
A culture of homophobia finds conversations about male-male sexual interactions difficult to deal with. As a result we have failed to have adequate conversations to protect boys from sexual abuse.
These myths that surround male sexual abuse have largely been created out of patriarchal notions of masculinity and are debilitating thousands of men across our country and around the world.
In order to protect our boys, we must have open and honest discussions about sexual abuse, where and how it can take place and remove the damaging patriarchal gaze which blinds us from abuses taking place right before our eyes.
Our failure to discuss male sexual abuse properly will continue to cripple and destroy our communities if we don’t have open and honest conversation
If we fail to do this, abuse will continue and thousands of men will suffer,torment and die in silence.
SERVICES THAT HELP MEN DEALING WITH SEXUAL ABUSE