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I’ve been thinking about Tom Matlack’s piece, “What If It Had Been a Girl In the Shower?” and wondering what it is, exactly, that caused the grown man who witnessed this hideous, horrible act of cruelty and exploitation to walk away? Was it reverence for his coach? Was it fear of retribution? Or was it, as Tom suggested, a complication of our society’s fear, or even just misunderstanding of, homosexuality?
I think what I’m most interested in here is the idea that the same-sex nature of abuser and victim somehow caused a sense of shame within the witnessed that ran deep enough for him to run away and keep it a secret. Perhaps that shame came from a larger and more profound shame about any sort of same-sex activity, perhaps it came from a disbelief that this piece of sh** assailant would have an interest in ANYONE male, let alone a child.
What I wonder about is the fear upon the realization of the vulnerability of male to be victimized. I wonder if this is why men (in general) often have a hard time accepting that men can be raped by women. Or why they often wonder whether male victims of male sexual perps were somehow “gay” and therefore “wanted” it.
What would the average straight male in our society be forced to feel if he realized that men are, in fact, vulnerable? They may know it intellectually (“sure it COULD happen, but it seems pretty unlikely”), but not truly realize the reality of sexual abuse upon males. You guys (men, in general) have been the ones in control of sexuality for thousands of years, as a group. Even though abuse of men and boys has always been true, and has ALWAYS been wrong, sexual politics and sexual power have been controlled by men as a group as long as history has been recorded, in most societies.
What if that security were suddenly undermined right in your face? What if you’d been taught to protect girls, to never hit a lady, to respect your elders, and you walked in to have everything you believed crumble from underneath you? This witness should have punched him, should have done ANYTHING physically possible to get that piece of sh** away from that child and all children. His lack of effective prevention of further crimes should be criminal in and of itself.
However, upon examining how sexual politics may have affected his psychology at that moment, we can maybe further understand why it may have been different were it a girl. He had probably heard his Dad say, “protect your sister” or “never let a guy hurt a girl” or “never hit a girl”. He may have known, intrinsically, that this girl needed protecting, and there may not have been that undercurrent of confusing psychology that prevented him from murdering that piece of sh** (can you tell I find it hard to even utter that disgusting person’s name?).
I teach my two boys not to protect girls, but to protect anyone who is being done wrong. I teach them to always defend one another and to stand by one another. Never once have I said, “You don’t hit girls.” I say, “You don’t hit people, unless you need to protect your body from being hurt.”
This is what I’ve been mulling over since I read Tom’s fantastic piece. Agree or disagree, it presents important lessons for those of us who are parents.
photo by chegs/flickr