In the wake of recent allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, people are bravely coming forward to share their own stories with the hashtag #MeToo.
Historically, rape was thought to be, and defined as, a crime committed solely against women. Most of these survivors are women, but it’s important to remember that male sexual assault still happens every day and is rarely talked about.
I was spooked upon reading news that sexual misconduct claims were planted against special counsel Robert Mueller, the man who is investigating President Trump in the United States. It made me realise that sexual misconduct can be used as a chess piece in a political game. And it’s not new, and it’s not unheard of it, but it is happening more and more. And I I think no one is excluded from being framed or being improperly accused of something they didn’t do.
Unfortunately, the way the media works is that you’re guilty until proven innocent, which is the exact opposite of how the court system works, the instrument of law that is used to properly deal with situations like this. But when news leaks, it’s usually a trial by media- and with media outlets earning fewer profits and the need to attract more clicks, and more attention, the media will be more tempted to write clickbait that assumes a person’s guilt instead of writing the headline that abides by ethical standards. That is a headline that is objective to the current stage or process that the accusation is being investigated. That’s why so many people have lost faith in journalism, because things that are still speculative or not certain, are being exaggerated to get a reaction out of the reader. That’s why smart readers are being critical of journalists, and dumb readers are being polarized and desensitised to the actual serious news.
I learnt that the hard way when I was working at a newspaper in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post, as social media editor. I learnt in university to write headlines that were objective, but I was consistently asked to write more sensational headlines to attract more clicks. There I said it, I’m not placing the blame on anyone, I’m not naming any names, but it was a system in place at the time that I worked there to exaggerate online content to incite extreme feelings, usually hate or polarizing political views.
So we know the media paints an extreme picture of modern issues. I want to be clear that I believe that we exist in a patriarchal society and there’s no running away from it. In most areas of our Lives, males dominate capital, they dominate wealth, they dominate how legal structures are made, it goes back to that picture of an old white man who writes the rules on how we live our lives. But I do think that there are emerging pockets in our society that can be labelled matriarchal. For example I’ve spoken to my friends who are now Primary School teachers, and there’s a statistic that only 10 or 15% of all primary school teachers are men, now from my limited point of view it seems pretty obvious that women, having a greater maternal instinct would be better placed to be teachers, but that could be called counter-sexist by men for me to say that men aren’t qualified to be good primary school teachers.
Anyway, I have friends who are primary school teachers and they feel like they’re excluded in conversations, they feel excluded from groups because they’re men. So all I’m trying to say is that the existence of a dominance or a majority by one gender over another should also be pointed out. Yes, it’s mostly a man’s world. Yes, men do most of the raping. But there are bad people on both sides. There are female criminals, there are female rapists, there are women committing sexual misconduct. And although they are a minority, you won’t ever hear their stories on the news because the news media portrays only instances of sexual misconduct perpetrated by men. Just google “CNN women raping men” and you won’t find any articles. That’s just one small example of a systematic problem in the way sexual misconduct is reported.
I think that any human who believes in fairness, whether you’re a man or a woman, should be worried about a narrative that is only reporting abuse from one side. I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again, men do most of the sexual misconduct, it’s brought down hundreds of prominent and abnormal men. But our culture only understands it to be one-side crime.
There are moments where I have felt pressured to take part in sexual activities with a female in a workplace, to improve my prospects, or my career goals. I won’t mention people’s names, and I’m sure many women have spoken up but walked away, even men too, or filed the police report but retracted it, and this is an instance where I will not be talking about this just to give away names, and let the media circus have a field day. I just want to put this issue on a stage and let people know that misconduct is felt by both genders, not just one. After being pressured to do it, I felt used. Even talking about it now, it’s not a cathartic or positive experience for me, there’s no release like when you talk about losing your job, there’s no making it better by talking about it, it just feels very negative and something that I’d like to move on from.
I think that a lot of people don’t want to talk about it because they’re worried about the potential fall out, that the perpetrator will actually paint themselves as a victim and then it becomes a your word vs my word case. It might even be the case that the media takes one side and the other person’s life is ruined. I don’t want that to happen because I don’t think that there’s anything constructive that can happen from that.
If this gets taken the wrong way, then I apologize for suggesting anything other than my profound admiration for the #MeToo movement. There may be a small group of men and even some women who may think of my admission as being unmanly or unhelpful. I still have much to learn and I am committed to being part of the solution. Sexual assault is a subject which is difficult to talk about for anyone who has experienced any sort of abuse.
Note: Male victims of rape are not acknowledged in Singapore law.