Just because I was male, it was not fathomable that I could be sexually abused. (Photo courtesy: Harish Iyer)
| 5 min read

International Men’s Day: Male, The Forgotten Gender

The nation knows that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I have spoken about it countless times at various forums, to the extent that I am considered to be a poster boy for the cause of male child sexual abuse. I was probably the first man to come out and say that I was sexually abused as a child by a man, and the responses I got from people around me were fascinating. For starters, they did not believe that I being a male child, was abused. Just because I was male, it was not fathomable that I could be sexually abused. I realised then, I am the forgotten gender.

There are tens of thousands of children who get sexually abused in this country and the world over. A majority of them are male. They face the brunt of the stigma of the popular perception that males are the ones that abuse, while females are the ones that get abused. I speak to around 10 or more survivors every single day. Most of them are adult men, who had undergone sexual abuse in their childhood.
When I ask them if they told their parents about the abuse, 50% of them told me that they did. (Photo courtesy: Harish Iyer)
When I ask them if they told their parents about the abuse, 50% of them told me that they did. (Photo courtesy: Harish Iyer)

The Vulnerability Of Men

When I ask them if they told their parents, 50% of them told me that they did. Their parents’ reactions were livid. Some reprimanded the male survivor for not fighting back, whereas some folks ignored what they heard from their son. The other 50% who did not tell their parents, did not have any belief in their folks to begin with. These are the boys who grow up to be confused men, who do not trust anyone easily. These men remind me – that male is the forgotten gender.

I am a staunch feminist. I understand the privilege I enjoy vis-à-vis women who are not allowed their voice or their choice. But sometimes these very privileges work against men themselves. They are seen as the procreator, the seed giver. So, when they decide to come out as lovers of other men, they are ostracised and sometimes beaten to death and starved. The very misogyny and patriarchy, that were supposed to favour men, gets used against them because they are suddenly perceived as being “woman like”.

There is a need to understand the vulnerability of men. Many are forced into heterosexual marriages. And we ask them- why didn’t you develop a spine to stand up for yourself instead of getting married to a woman? This is not the case of a ‘men versus women’ fight. But seriously, we don’t ask the same question when the woman is forced to marry a man. We still live in a society where women are forced into heterosexual marriages and are seen with empathy, but when men are forced, we look at them with apathy. On behalf of all men who are forced, and are not even believed when they confess that they were forced to marry outside their sexuality, I realise that male is the forgotten gender.

What is 498A?

During my growing up years, I remember this boy in my school in his 8th grade. He had a what we call, “aunty” fixation. He loved making out with older women in their late 20s. Everyone he narrated this incident to, with immense pride – it was seen as some kind of brave act that the boy was “enjoying”. Now, when I look back and change the genders in my head… if it was a girl child who was making love to older men in their late 20s, will we look at her with fascination and pride? Or will we look at this as a case of abuse? This reminds me, that male is the forgotten gender.
Is ‘male’ the forgotten gender? (Photo courtesy: Harish Iyer)
Is ‘male’ the forgotten gender? (Photo courtesy: Harish Iyer)

And do you know about 498A? I am a staunch feminist who believes that women need to be equal to men. I have interacted with women who have acid thrown on them, women who were burnt by their in-laws… all because of dowry. That said, I am also aware of men who were falsely accused by their wives and their families of demanding dowry. Like the story of this man who blamed his in-laws and partner for the misuse of 498A.

The Victims of Patriarchy Are Men Themselves

Unfortunately though, the discussion in the domain of 498A , is drowned in the noise of wordy cyberwars and incessant trolling by feminists on one side, and mens’ rights activists on the other, thus leading to the proliferation of hashtags like #FemisnistsAreUgly by Men’s Rights Activists and the complete nonacceptance of the fact that women could be perpetuators too, by women’s rights groups.

Throw a few difficult words in a glass jar, add a few statistical figures, shake it with anger and spill out the vitriol on social media in chaste English – that’s what happens.

We often forget in this noisiness that the victims of patriarchy are men themselves. But they are the forgotten gender. And to change the narrative, we need to start seeing every case uniquely, devoid of any assumptions.

There are people fighting for men like these who are put on the weighing scale of male versus female abuse. They are reduced to a percentage.

Women are not statistics. Men are not statistics. People are not statistics. Crime is not a number. Crimes like these, are a grim reminder of the fact that we need to look at people beyond numbers, and have an un-gendered outlook at times.

We need a new temperature for sanity and that will come only with a new barometer for equality.

On International Men’s Day, let’s not belittle men by saying “all men are not assholes” and by following it with “there are a few good men too”… which makes violent men a norm and kind men the exception from the rule. This has got to change. This will have to change. Today, let’s pledge to change the story.