On March 24, the popular campus social app Yik Yak was set ablaze with accusations of sexual assault (SA) against a potential new member of Greek life. Discussions of alleged sexual abuse by members of University of Maine’s Greek life on Yik Yak is nothing new. In fact, it feels like every week new allegations of assault are leveled at these organizations. The vitriol on the app that was directed toward women and victims of assault is extremely toxic, but one detail of this latest allegation brought out the worst of some of the app’s users: the alleged victim was male and the perpetrator was female.
To its credit, the sorority appeared to take action immediately. The pledge was reportedly removed the same day as the accusations arose. This accountability, changed the course of the typical Yik Yak conversation about SA. Even though the sorority acted swiftly, some Yik Yak users described what they perceived as a double standard.
“So girls, just because one sorority girl commits SA, that means all sororities are terrible humans right? Cause that’s how you treat frats,” one user wrote that evening.
What these users did not do was take time to express empathy and support for the victim. Despite claiming to be inflamed at the double standard of how we discuss male victims of assault, these users did not have any interest in actually discussing how to support the victim or how those standards were formed. What was an opportunity for a thoughtful dialogue on male victims quickly devolved into sexist and fatphobic rhetoric.
“[Sorority name redacted] really went from assaulting Big Macs to men,” wrote one user the night of March 24.
Whether these hateful users were looking for it or not, the answer to how this double standard for men coming forward as victims of SA was actually on display that night. This perception of victimization as feminine is a feature, not a bug, of the toxic masculinity that the patriarchy thrives upon. Messages from Yik Yak users were enforcing the very standard they were complaining about.
“Your Ability to sexually assault a Guy should fully be dependent on appearance. Hot Girls welcome, Fat Girls [sorority name redacted] Finish the thought yourselves.”
“[R]earing men in traditional masculinity ideology — a constellation of behaviors that includes stoicism, anti-femininity, competitiveness, the avoidance of appearing weak, and attraction to adventure, risk, and violence — is mentally and physically harmful,” BARCC said. “One study, for example, showed that men with strong masculinity beliefs were far less likely than men with more moderate masculinity beliefs to get preventive health care.”
This corroborates the findings of a study of male veteran victims of SA. This study found that none of its male subjects felt comfortable discussing their trauma with any male therapists. Time and time again, it is shown that the greatest hurdle male victims of SA face are other men.
It is easy to see this pattern born out in other aspects of men’s lives. Men often extol the simple bond that they have with their male friends, especially in contrast to the misogynistic stereotypes of emotional, drama-filled female friendships.
Yet, at the same time many men also complain of not having the proper emotional networks to work through their difficulties. They feel they have no one to talk to about their issues and feel alone. If this loneliness doesn’t lead this subset of men to emotionally dumping on their predominantly female partners, it drives them toward cults of masculinity and pseudo-science like those of Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson.
Until men relinquish patriarchal power and do away with gender-coded perceptions of reality, they will continue to be prisoners in a cage of their own creation. Most importantly, male victims of SA will continue to suffer needlessly in silence.
On this campus, that change needs to begin in the houses of the fraternities. Fraternity brothers, who sexually assault at a rate 300% higher than non-fraternity members, must radically change. Allegations must be taken seriously and consequences must be real. Any fraternity member who knowingly remains in a fraternity that does not hold a sexual predator accountable is complicit.
Support for male victims of SA is not found in the unnecessary comparison to the experience of non-male victims or bad faith arguments about double-standards, but in solidarity for all victims. This is solidarity that UMaine desperately needs, but it does not appear to be on the horizon anytime soon.