TW: rape and sexual assault
In the last 100 years, the feminist movement has come a long way. In 2020, women are allowed to vote, male rape victims are beginning to be taken more seriously, and the gender pay gap is slowly closing. Despite this, only last month, the Facebook confessions page ‘Brumfess’, used mostly by University of Birmingham students, saw a huge surge in posts regarding the phrase, ‘men are trash’. I’ll put it this way, people did not hold back in the comments section to have their say.
In the majority of posts arguing that ‘men are trash’, it appeared to stem from an experience of sexual assault or rape. However, it also referred to cases of men objectifying womenor being in a mentally or physically abusive relationship. One student pointed out that the phrase came into existence ‘from the long history’ of men oppressing women. With this in mind, along with the horrifying statistic that in the last year, there were over 55,000 rape offences in England and Wales, it comes as no surprise that some people use this phrase, and passionately believe it.
Despite this, other students explained that the use of this phrase is in fact hate speech. It takes the small percentage of men who do sexually assault or rape a person, and overgeneralises it to the entire male population. Claiming that ‘men are trash’ completely ignores the fact that men do experience rape and sexual assault too; some men are actually the victims, rather than the ‘trash’. In these cases where men are sexually abused, 79% of the perpetrators are female, according to the Independent. As well as this, other surveys have found that 56.4% of rapists are male, and the remaining 43.6% are female. Although this statistic does make a person more likely to be attacked by a male than a female, the numbers are a lot closer than some of you may have originally predicted. And so, the stereotype that ‘all men are trash’ and ‘all women are harmless’, is actually quite far from the truth.
Some ‘Brumfesses’ include experiences of sexual assault or an abusive partner, with Facebook users then quick to comment something like, ‘ugh, men are trash!’, when the post hadn’t actually specified if the abuser was even male. This highlights how many of us have a subconscious bias, resulting in an automatic assumption that sexual abusers are male, and sexual abuse victims are female, when in reality, this isn’t always the case.
As a consequence, these assumptions further expand the issue of male rape victims not being taken seriously, which subsequently discourages male victims from coming forward and reporting an offence. According to Rape Crisis, only around 15% of sexual violence victims report it to the police. This percentage is already far too small, and yet males are less likely to report a sexual violence offence than a female, meaning the percentage for men specifically, is even lower than 15%. There seems to be a shame in admitting you’vebeen sexually abused as a man, because it’s deemed ‘not masculine enough’ to be in such a weak and vulnerable position where you’d get raped or abused. F*ck that. It’s the rapists and abusers that aren’t ‘masculine enough’, because they’re barely even human to me.
Thankfully, some of the Brumfess posts did acknowledge that not ‘all men are trash’, but the use of the phrase is still harmful. One male Facebook user pointed out how demoralising it is to see these posts for men like himself who know how to respect a person. There are feminist implications here, whereby some women are wrongly labelling some men as ‘trash’ and thus pushing them away, when really, we should be welcoming the men who have been brought up to learn genuine respect.
Like 1 in every 3 women, I’ve experienced sexual assault, but I’m lucky enough to have really respectful male friends, which has definitely helped me maintain a healthy view of what men are like overall – I know most of them are great people. I would hate to dampen down the feminism in me, by having a pure hatred for men that’s based purely on a few negative experiences with them, vs. multiple positive experiences with other men I’ve come across.
By including all men, women, and people of other genders in the conversation, and in the fight against rape and sexual assault, we can leave the phrase ‘men are trash’ in the past. As one student put it cleverly in the comments section, it’s the system of patriarchy that’s trash, not men.