Men’s Issues: Forgotten victims

Peyton Gouzien | @PGouzien

Gender issues have been a mainstay of conversation in our society. This began in the early 1900s with the Women’s Suffrage movement, starting the “waves” of Feminism. Now we’ve reached the third wave of Feminism. They focus on the issues of sexual assault, sexual liberation, reproductive rights, and the gender pay gap. Critics of the wave feel it is possible the feminist movement has gone overboard in the quest for equality. Some will even argue they have already reached it. While on the other side Men’s issues rarely receive mainstream attention. Some in the Feminist movement will even view them as actually a women’s issue. This has caused a sense of disenfranchisement within men, leading to them forming their own organizations to solve their issues.

Men’s Rights Activists

Of men’s rights groups, the biggest are Men’s Rights Activists. Men’s Rights Activists, like Feminism, is not one group, but a movement comprised of many other individuals and organizations. The term became popularized in the United States in the 2010’s era as a response to third wave Feminism. Men’s Rights Activists or MRA’s argue that feminists have neglected men in their quest for equality. Furthering that it has not made this a two front issue.

Some argue that the movement is now more about gynocentrism rather than achieving legal and social equality. Many people argue that this has already been achieved. MRA’s focus on the issues surrounding false rape allegations, male suicide, and bias in criminal and family courts. Feminism and the mainstream media have left all these issues untouched.

Many have come to misunderstand the movement as a one about male supremacy. This has led to the coverage of it being largely negative. Many of those in opposition to it will claim it is mostly internet trolls who use death threats targeting women. In reality, this is a mischaracterization of the movement by a minority who use the label as a mere joke. The reality is the movement goes much farther in trying to address forgotten issues.

Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW)

While MRA’s take a more direct approach, “Men Going Their Own Way” or MGTOW movement has a different approach. Unlike the MRA’s, MGTOW is a more of an organization that has is also a movement. Members of MGTOW challenge society’s definition of what it means to be a man and the role they must play.

According to MGTOW, it is a statement of self ownership. It is men wanting to live for themselves and not for others, specifically for the sake of women. MGTOW seeks to transform the way men deal with men’s issues, having men change themselves, rather than changing society. A sense of alienation is what drives men into MGTOW. It’s a sense of not fitting into what they call “society’s role for men”.

The Issues Plaguing Men

Those concerned with the issues of men have cited many different issues as plaguing our society. Some issues brought up coincide with issues that women’s rights movements will also address, but from a different perspective. This perspective being one that favors women and will portray women as those suffering as a result of them. The prevailing issues brought up that affect men are gender bias in the court system and conversations surrounding sexual assault.

The Court’s Bias Against Males

The issue of gender bias in the courts is one that is clearly a male issue. This is because it affects men almost exclusively. There are two parts to this issue. The bias against fathers in child custody cases in family court and criminal courts disparity in sentencing based on gender. Extensive research showing the existence, the extent, and nature of the issues strongly back both these claims.

Family Court Bias

The bias against fathers in family court is the most damaging of these issues, fathers not being the only victims. Children must also face the consequences of custody rulings that rule in favor of the mother unfairly. The reason is largely traced to the preference Judges and Attorneys indicate to have for mothers. The data shows overwhelming bias from attorneys towards mothers in custody cases, with over half of judges indicating the same. This not only impacts a judge’s ruling, but the performance of the attorney. This can mean an increase or decrease in quality depending on who they are representing.

The effects of this bias are most definitely seen, as sole legal custody is an unlikelihood for Fathers and the chances of joint legal custody only correlate with an increase of income. What causes this disparity is a number of factors. The way America has organized the family court system is a promotion of gender roles in parenting. As men associate with the fatherly role, a less nurturing role, the courts perceive it this way. The fact is though that this is a narrow and ultimately costly way of seeing the big picture of child custody that children and fathers see the consequences of, while mothers overwhelmingly benefit from.

Criminal Court Bias

Criminal courts see a similar bias against men due to gender roles as well. Men are typically portrayed as more masculine and violent and are typically encouraged by society to follow the role. This perception of men has led to a disparaging way in which men and women are sentenced for crimes. The exact measure of the issue being twice as likely for women not to be incarcerated if convicted. As well, men receive 63% longer sentences on average than women, despite controlling for the crime and its details. This shows another example of the bias of courts towards men. These biases come from the perception of the men being a violent and is harmful for men. While both feminism and MRA’s deal with gender roles and their harms, the Men’s rights side capitalizes on the effects it has one men.

The Conversation Around Sexual Assault

While the bias of courts exclusively affect men (and children in family courts), sexual assault plagues all members of society. It is known as an issue championed by Feminism, with the view being “male perpetrators and female victims”. Though most would not know the issue is one championed by men’s rights activists and MGTOW as well. Their perspective goes deeper than sexual assault as a horrible action committed against women by men. The male side of the debate goes into issues of the damaging effects of false accusations, lack of awareness for male victims, and prison rape, issues largely left untouched by most feminists.

False Rape Accusations, Statistically Rare, but Damaging

False rape accusations have become more of a national conversation with the rise of the “Me Too” movement. Specifically during the nomination of Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh. Several rape accusation were made against the now Justice right before his confirmation hearings ended. In the ensuing chaos and political battle, several of the accusers admitted the accusations were false , only the first still holding weight in conversation. 

While Justice Kavanaugh came out largely unscathed, other men do not meet this fortunate fate. While researchers estimate false rape allegations around 3% of allegations, two facts are largely ignored in citing this data. Those being it only counts allegations brought to police and could be up to 22% by some data. Though the problem with false rape allegations is not the frequency of which they happen, but the effects of them. Effects largely ignored by the mainstream. For example, a teen who was falsely convicted of rape in the United Kingdom, took his own life in prison. After his suicide, investigators determined the allegations were actually false and the boy was innocent.

“Me Too”, While Well-Intentioned, has Made it Worse

While not every case where these allegations are false end like this boy’s, the effects are profound and damaging. Men lose their jobs, status as a student, and are isolated by loved ones over false accusations. In the era of “Me Too” this has only gotten worse. Beforehand men in positions of power could come unscathed, but the new movement has left even them at the ends of false accusations. People like Al Franken and Louis CK have, while they did commit inappropriate behavior, had their actions rise to the level, in the public eye, of sexual assault. The behavior in those situations did not rise to that level, as they were allegations of misconduct, but not actual assault. Now these men’s careers are forever ruined over accusations of which some were false, others made out to be as bad as sexual assault, when that’s not the case.

Forgetting about the Sexual Assault of Men

Perception is the biggest factor in creating these problems. Perception around sexual assault tends to make the assumption of the woman as the victim. While women make up 91% of sexaul assault victims, the 9% of men who are victims are largely ignored. This is because the perception around sexual assault has men being the perpetrator, but in reality, this isn’t the entire case.

Surveying of youth women in Juvenile facilities reveals nearly half of the respondents reported themselves being the perpetrator or having thoughts of being the perpetrator of sexual violence against another person. This shows a more than commonly perceived likelihood of women to be the perpetrators, but that is not the issue at hand. The real issue is what perception does to male victims.

Depending on the age group, the rate at which men and women are assaulted is nearly equal, especially at the age demographic of 18 to 19. Our perception runs contrary, creating a stigma for men. This stigma views their sexual victimization as unmanly, leading to them not finding resources to deal with the victimization or reporting the assault in the first place.

The issue of Prison Rape

This problem is most rampant in a sect of society that itself is an issue. That being prisons, prison rape being an overlooked issue by most of our society. When examining prisons through the lens of sexual assault we find disturbing issues for not just men, but for sexual minorities. When taking prison rape into account for sexual assault statistics, we can see periods where men were actually victims of sexual assault more than women.

Preconceived notions on the topic would not suggest this is the case, as those who studied it point out. Though the issue doesn’t become as simple as males being victims, but that sexual minorities are specifically targeted by fellow inmates and prison staff alike. In examining prisons, we see sexual assault is all too common and especially among men, but is an issue that affects both sides in similar ways with largely similar effects.

Addressing the Issues

After an examination of the issues championed by men advocacy groups, we can definitely see the existence of widespread issues. In an analysis of the evidence clear problems exist, the question is if they are inherently male? The likely answer to the question is counter to both the rhetoric of male advocacy groups and female advocacy groups in that these issues are less of a gender issue and more of a general societal issue. Male advocacy groups are surprisingly the ones closest to admitting this truth in their own analysis of the issues presented.

Looking to sexual assault. We see an issue that clearly affects both sides of the debate and that men suffer just as women do as a result of it. The focus should shift from “male perpetrators and female victims” not to “male victims and female perpetrators”, but to “victims and perpetrators”. Our current narrow view on it is one of many reasons the existence of male advocacy groups exist in the first place. In curing these problems, both sides must unite under the shared goal of unity and allyship. 

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