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Bigg Boss contestant Eijaz Khan spoke about being sexually abused as a child. It’s time we talked about the trauma male survivors face.
Among the many victims of patriarchy, one section that we often overlook is the male members of society. It snatches away from men space and vocabulary to express their emotions, and share even the most horrific and grave trauma that they are subjected to, especially sexual abuse.
According to a report in the Times of India, Eijaz Khan, a contestant on Bigg Boss Season 14 narrated his horrific experience of sexual abuse at a young age. Bigg Boss had given the housemates a ‘task’ to share their deepest secrets to win immunity from nominations and be the first finalist.
Though trauma cannot be compared, the housemates were touched by Eijaz’s horrific experience and he was given the ‘immunity stone.’ According to the TOI report, Eijaz Khan shared that he was molested as a child how much that has psychologically impacted him. He broke down several times during the episode and confessed how physical touch still makes him uncomfortable.
In this patriarchal structure of society, from a very young age, boys are exposed to the belief that they should not show emotions. The binary of masculinity and femininity assigns traits such as being emotional or expressive as feminine. And it demands men to be strong, aggressive and dominant.
Any man who strays from this normative behavioural pattern, or shows any ‘feminine’ characteristic, is asked to ‘man up.’ Therefore, boys from a very young age are taught, even by their mothers, that crying, is a sign of weakness they are not allowed to exhibit.
Growing up, most boys learn to internalise these toxic masculine notions, suppressing their emotions and emotional needs. While some others reject the cis-heterosexist norms that are imposed on them. These notions when internalised inhibit men from seeking help even when they most need it.
Socially, male sexual abuse is constantly trivialised and the survivors are invariably blamed. Some are even called effeminate or gay because of the myth that ‘real men’ cannot be abused. This also relegates men with a feminine gender presentation and gay men to a position of being ‘lesser’ men.
It closes the doors of men sharing their trauma, and bottling up of the trauma, hurt, rage and the wide range of emotions that sexual abuse leaves in its wake. Thus, makes the mental health situation even worse. The taboo concerning men being victims of sexual abuse, and gaslighting, also leaves the survivor with a deep-seated sense of shame.
The Ministry of Women and Child Welfare conducted a survey in 2007, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund. This was done in a bid to understand the magnitude of child abuse in India. And the survey found out that 53.22 percent of children have faced one or more forms of sexual abuse, and among them 52.94 percent were boys.
The POCSO Act, 2019, only after its recent amendment acknowledged the gender-neutral nature of sexual abuse, which feminists state is rooted in power politics. But rape as legislated by IPC in Section 375, is still gendered and do not cover the rape of men. This social and legal dismissal of male sexual abuse is by itself a form of violence against them.
With the #MeToo movement, the conversation around sexual abuse broke a lot of barriers and taboos. It gave people the space to open up about their harrowing experiences. But male voices have mostly been left out. One of the voices represented was that of Telegu comedy actor Rahul Ramakrishna, who narrated earlier this year about his trauma that was inflicted by being raped as a child.
Ranveer Singh, too, had spoken about facing the casting couch during his struggling days in Bollywood. These voices go a long way in empowering men and giving them the safe space to open up and find networks of solidarity to heal. They give other male survivors the reassurance that their trauma is valid, and the hope that, society might be more sensitive and understanding of the plight of male survivors.
Picture credits: Still from Eijaz Khan’s Instagram
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An undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional
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