Censorship: Post-Weinstein, and the Impact of Social Media
In true social media fashion, it took a whole five minutes before the MeToo campaign turned from a collective shout against sexual assault and in to an engendered political story of exclusion.
Here’s the low down; after the abhorrent truths surrounding Weinstein emerged, an outcry from celebrities and laymen flooded social media platforms. The core statement—which many copy-pasted as part of a chain created by actress Alyssa Milano—did nothing to show or discriminate against the gender of those sexually assaulted or harassed.
The spectrum varies; from men standing up in allied defence of seeing so many of their friends and family who have suffered and endured displays of sexual assault—to men who have taken a stance against stigma, and opened up in a big way about their own dark truths. However, the comments now surfacing are filled with hate, and disregard, to the claims made by men globally—“it’s a lot of fucking men and it’s not your time to take in sympathy”; “I know men and trans-people can be assaulted. But the fact and statistics stand that women are the most likely to experience this. Don’t take this away from us.” – are some of the comments I have come across in the social zeitgeist.
However, to bring up facts and statistics is a double-edged blade as men are even less likely to report acts of sexual assault, and domestic abuse, than women who undergo such trauma.
According to Victoria Police (Australia) between the years of 2000-2005 the statistics of sexual assault victimization were as 14,892 for women and 3,255 for men. Males represented about 16-20 per cent of the total reports, with a bulk of reports comprising of men under seventeen years old.
Like female survivors of sexual assault, males struggle with traumatic symptoms and disrupted lives – some with their sexuality and masculine role. An adequate range of services and agencies exist, but within our community we must be apart of the vision required to understand and respond effectively to male sexual assault.
“… the impact of sexual violence for boys and men is the attitude that even if it does happen, they are not harmed or affected by it, that sexual abuse is not really an important issue for our community.” Bavinton, T. (Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, 2003)
An article from the Department of Defense even explains that annually, about 10,800 men are sexually assaulted in the military, with [roughly] 8,000 women experiencing assault. Jim Hopper (a psychologist and researcher), and Russell Strand (Criminal Investigative Service special agent) go on to explain that only thirteen per cent of those men attacked go on to report.
More cases, and attention, have been given to women who undergo these disgusting acts but society is on their side when they come forward. The stigma surrounding masculinity is only just starting to dissipate, but still plays a vital role in the social interpretations of our community. Viral videos have circulated across Facebook where social experiments were conducted in public places, in particular one involving domestic abuse. When a community watches a man abusing a woman in public, various people will come to her aid — but when the roles were reversed, no one would help the man, and more often than not, the public would laugh or believe he “had it coming”.
Feminist theory goes a long way to encourage equality of the sexes. Emma Watson eloquently posited that to see change for the majority of womankind and further equality, is to open our arms to men and say that it is okay to show emotion, to care, to be vulnerable — to be feminine, as their is strength in that!
“If men having the courage to post ‘Me Too’ on their page makes you feel anger than compassion, then I fear you have fallen victim to the very patriarchy we are trying to smash,” says Your Friendly Neighborhood Feminist (Facebook)
Even as more stories come forward, the media has sidestepped the inclusion of Terry Crews, and James Van Der Beek, to the growing list of celebrities being assaulted in Hollywood. But what is more disparaging is the amount of celebrities who have known, for years, and have chosen to keep silent — such as Anthony LaPaglia, who knew of Weinstein’s appetites for more than 25 years (what!).
The reluctance in men reporting sexual assault and abuse is deeply rooted in the shame of the attack – not unlike what women have to endure – the fear of memories, of being violated, the belief that they are not worthy of respect. Men who are assaulted are overwhelmingly heterosexual, and so are their assailants.
“Part of that is they know most people don’t expect men to be assaulted, that this can’t really happen to a ‘real man,'” says Jim Hopper, psychologist.
Being ostracized is the fundamental fear associated with men, and women, who have experienced this assault. Men believe they will be looked as less than, that they will be shunned, and that speaking out will result in the end of their careers.
“I decided not to take it further because I didn’t want to be ostracized, par for the course when the predator has power and influence,” says Terry Crews. “I understand why many women who this happens to let it go.”
Crews goes on to lay out the potential scenario on Twitter: who’s going to believe you? Few. What are the repercussions? Many. Do you want to work again? Yes. Are you ready to be ostracized? No.
With all this in mind, have we not effectively done that with the men who have spoken out? Have we not given them further reason, and proof-positive, that they are seen as less than and should keep quiet?
A comment surfaced a few days ago; where a Facebook user said that enduring “a moment of sexual assault in pre-adulthood” wasn’t on par with what women have to endure each day. Unfortunately this was poorly executed, as now people are undermining acts of molestation and pedophilia because the assault isn’t “concurrent throughout your life”. Does this mean we are now attaching time stamps to a persons sexual assault claims and efficacy? Is this not eerily similar to the Catholic Church throwing smokescreens (Spotlight, 2015) whilst priests were assaulting altar boys?
In light of this, it brings to mind the situation that surrounded the death of Corey Haim. In the documentary, Coreyography, Haim claimed that he was sexually abused at a young age by one of Corey Feldman’s acquaintances – a 42-year old man within the Hollywood industry. A rift formed between the two, and the second season of The Two Corey’s, went on to expose the darker side of their lives as teen stars.
In 2011, Corey Feldman told ‘Nightline’ that “a Hollywood Mogul who abused Haim is to blame for the late actor’s death. He also exposed pedophilia as Hollywood’s biggest, and ongoing, dark secret.”
But where was the social outcry then?
Three years later, An Open Secret was released (a documentary exposing the issue of underage sexual abuse in the Hollywood-entertainment industry). The story follows the stories of five former child actors, whose lives were turned upside down by multiple predators, including convicted sex offender, Marc Collins-Rector, who co-owned and operated (the now infamous) Digital Entertainment Network.
“The film feels less shocking as a cult-of-celebrity document and more just quietly horrifying, as it details the trauma and the abuse of power inflicted on young men with stars in their eyes.” Elizabeth Donnelly, Flavorwire 2015
On 14 October 2017, producers Gave Hoffman and Matthew Valentinas released the official version of An Open Secret on Vimeo to support victims of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
The situation before us has spiralled, and people will hold many views which will be conflicting. Feminism holds that equality is not a gender-specific human right, but something that the next generation has within their hands to change. One thing to keep in mind is that even if you have not seen a friend post about this movement — this does not mean they have not gone through situations of sexual assault or harassment. No survivor owes you their story, but what you can do is stand beside them regardless of their gender.
Social Media needs to be used as a platform to inspire, protect, and inform. But over the past year it has been used as a tool for psychological attack, and cyber-bullying. Because of its impact, and ability to connect, it is within us to use social media to shine the light on issues that need a global attention and include everyone within the social and political commentaries that arise – without prejudice, discrimination, or degradation. Sexual assault affects more men than society and the media give notice to, and that’s something we all need to work on.
If you’re reading this and have been a victim of such behaviours, know that you are not alone. There are many agencies and helplines available to you, no matter your country of birth. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It is not easy to ask for help, and even harder to speak against it. By removing the gender bias and politics which surround these discussions, and focus on the core message first posted by Alyssa Milano, we will be doing more to further the rehabilitation for victims of sexual abuse, and enable a more compassionate environment for survivors.
In solidarity I share this: I am a victim of sexual assault from my childhood, have faced sexual harassment in my adult-life by older women in higher positions, and now work in the Film & Television Industry in Perth, Western Australia — where I conduct myself as a producer. I am an ally, I am a voice within the crowd, I am a warm embrace and a shoulder to lean on. It has been hard to hear that my experiences are perceived as less than relevant. But I don’t intend to stay quiet anymore.
There is still a long way to go, but with each passing generation the stigma surrounding masculinity is fading, and with that we find ourselves in a much more feminist-friendly western-society. A small ripple is always enough, to create wider change.
What do you think? Leave a comment.