Opinion: To talk about unwanted sexual attention as a man is to court ridicule

Why many men don’t talk about being objectified, writes Matthew McClure

 

In a modern world where retrenchment, poverty and economic instability are the new norm, many men find it increasingly difficult to live up to the traditional standards set for them.
Image: iStock

If you’ve ever been the focus of unwanted physical attention, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

That raw moment when you become aware that all the unique characteristics that make up the individual you are stripped away, and you are objectified; reduced to a body whose sole purpose is to pleasure.

What happens when a man is treated like an object?

As a man, one of the many ways this could manifest is the belief that any physical and sexual attention received should be welcomed as a validation of your maleness, as a recognition of your base need to procreate and be male – stereotypes of gender that are taught to boys from a very early age.

In my experience, this happens both in the real world and online. Gym change-rooms become fraught with sexual innuendo. Facebook and even platforms ostensibly designed for work opportunities are utilized as modern-day pick-up bars.

To talk about unwanted attention as man is to court ridicule. “What do you mean you weren’t interested? What’s wrong with you? Be a man. Take charge.”

There are very few formal opportunities to interrogate the awkwardness and ill-feeling arising from these situations.

Rigid definitions of manhood immediately diminish a society’s ability to handle violence visited upon men, most particularly sexual violence.

It’s a sad state of affairs when incidences of male rape and sexual harassment are so under reported that social support networks, both private and public, find themselves unable to deal with crimes when they are reported and are ill-equipped to provide support to victims.

The time has come to unravel these complex social stereotypes.

In a modern world where retrenchment, poverty and economic instability are the new norm, and men find it increasingly difficult to live up to the traditional standard set for them, it is critical that we allow them space to communicate in a supportive environment that is conducive to healing.

It’s important for us to begin redefining the permission that we grant to men to talk openly outside of intimate friendship circles about their objectification.

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