Assault, abuse, sexual assault

We’re conditioned to believe that someone’s outward appearance is a reflection of their inward value. This has been a convenient way to permit and often encourage or support the mistreatment of people, often times women. It is also one of the foundational bricks upon which a rape culture is built.

This might seem like a reach, but hear me out. When we no longer judge someone based on their character and instead base our opinions and assumptions on something outside of their core self, it becomes easy to dehumanize that person. We can more easily find reasons to not only justify mistreatment, but also blame them for it.


It’s true that how we dress says something to the rest of the world about us. But who decided that any of what it says is bad? Isn’t clothing and fashion merely an artistic expression?

Why did we decide that it is meant to be taken seriously and given any sort of weight when it comes to measuring someone’s worth?

There’s a term called Enclothed Cognition and “…it is used to describe the effect that our clothes seem to have on various psychological processes like emotions, self evaluations, attitudes, and interpersonal interactions. Clothes affect our behavior and our moods because of the symbolic meaning that we (as a society) ascribe to different types of attire.”

What could the positive psychological impact be if we collectively realized and accepted that what you wore didn’t determine your value? That what you wore doesn’t define you and isn’t a justifiable reason to dehumanize you?

Rape cases

The worse impact of a rape culture is of course the prevalence of rape. When we think about rape survivors, often times women are the individuals that come to mind first. Arguably, this is because they represent about 90% of known cases.

To claim that that is the only reason why would demonstrate that we are not reflecting on the issue in it’s entirety though. Let’s consider some other reasons why we don’t immediately think of male rape survivors when the topic comes up.

We victim blame, we shame and we fail to support. In turn, male rape survivors are now tasked with reconciling how they feel with how society has responded, alone. One of the leading causes of death for men is suicide and while I couldn’t find statistics on male rape victims (further illustrating my point) and suicide rates, it stands to reason there is a correlation.

At the same time, because of toxic masculinity, many male rape survivors don’t take their assault experience seriously. Only 16% of men with documented histories of sexual abuse considered themselves to have been sexually abused, compared to 64% of women with documented histories.

Rape culture

Most noticeably, we live in a rape culture. And a significant factor that contributes to a rape culture is toxic masculinity. We’re often quick to point the finger at men for displaying these behaviours, and yet we fail to reflect on the men and women who raised these boys into the men they became.

We all contribute to the concept of toxic masculinity and this includes women. We’re significant contributors to toxic masculinity being ingrained in boys. Because, typically, we are their primary care givers. How many times have you heard a mom explain poor behavior with ‘boys will be boys’?

How many times have sisters been given more ‘domestic’ household chores than their brothers? Alternatively, how many times have brothers been tasked with ‘manly’ chores over their sisters?

We women cannot have it both ways, we cannot say men are prescribing to toxic masculinity while we raise them to do so.

This does not absolve fathers in any way. Where are they when their sons are being told to ‘toughen up’ if not speaking those words themselves? Why are they encouraging their sons to be sexually promiscuous as teens? Why are they using ‘girl’ as an insult towards their son regarding his potential or accomplishments?

We’re all raising boys to be the driving force of the rape culture we live in. Toxic masculinity is a phenomenon that effects all of us.

Sexuality & masculinity

Boys are raised to ‘want’ to have sex as often as possible with as many girls as possible, so much so that their masculinity is perceived as intrinsically linked to this benchmark. This dehumanizes girls and erases every sexuality that isn’t heterosexual, but those are topics for another time.

So what happens when they’re forced into sex? They’re supposed to want sex, so what happens when they don’t? Like women, men are unlikely to be forthcoming in their rejection of sex. After all, a man who rejects sex isn’t a man according to toxic masculinity.

This is the story we tell ourselves.We hear it over and over from childhood into adulthood. How then can we expect men to come forward and tell someone that they have been assaulted? We’ve conditioned them to tirelessly seek sex, so how do we react when they tell us they didn’t want it?

The Next Step

The only way to change the lack of support for survivors, and even awareness for the survivors of the fact they have been assaulted, is to dismantle toxic masculinity and it start during childhood.

I’d love to know…
How were you treated for wearing something society decided was immodest?
How has society shaped your wardrobe?
What do you actively do to dismantle rape culture?
What does positive masculinity look like in parenting?