Why are men like Terry Crews still expected to be tough in the face of sexual assault?

Back in 2016, Terry Crews joined the brave voices of #MeToo by revealing he too had been a victim of sexual assault. He filed charges against Hollywood agent Adam Venit whom he claimed touched his genitals at an industry party. Though the case was rejected, reportedly because of expiration of the statute of limitations, Venit eventually apologized and resigned from the agency over the incident.

Terry’s revelation came as a big shock for most. Simply because he doesn’t look like society’s notion of a victim. For that very reason, many questioned his story. Comedian D.L Hughley was one of them. In a 2018 interview with VLADTV, he said, “I think that now everybody’s so into this notion that, ‘It happened to me too,’” He further addressed Terry, saying, “Hey, motherf*cker. God gave you muscles so you could say no and mean it.”

This week, Terry finally confronted Hughley on Twitter. “Are you implying I ‘wanted’ to be sexually assaulted?” he wrote. He also clapped back for the assumption that he could have handled the situation differently had he been in his shoes. “Sir you said I should have pushed him back, or restrained him and I DID ALL THOSE THINGS… but you act like I didn’t. Were you there?” Terry further questioned.

D.L. responded with, “That’s different than slapping the sh*t outa him.” Terry’s answer was everything.

D.L hasn’t responded yet but his comment of inciting violence is unsurprising. Ever since Terry came out with his story, his masculinity has often been questioned. Some men even treated the assault as a joke. It’s a familiar narrative, really. The media often portrays male rape in shows and films as such. Homophobia comes into play too, as most perpetrators are themselves male. The fact that men largely agree that Terry should have resorted to violence, as if it were no question at all, is further proof that toxic masculinity still reigns today.

Terry was right when he told D.L that, “You are an example of when comedy turns to sarcasm and cynicism. And you find it extremely easy to get jokes at someone else expense.” He added, “You @50cent @unclerush and @tariqnasheed have decided my sexual assault was hilarious, whereas there are a whole generation of black women and men who don’t think it’s funny.”

True enough, while rape and sexual assault is something all communities sadly face, there seems to be a stronger stigma for black male victims. As Terry mentioned, fellow black men would mock him for “letting” a white man assault him. Teen Vogue notes that “[Terry] has said that support from Black men hasn’t been there since news of the allegation and has credited Black women as his primary place of support.” This, even though Terry has pointed out that as a Black man in Hollywood, “he felt he had no power in that moment and slapping his alleged abuser could have easily derailed his career.” And worse, that “it could have landed him in jail.”

Yet again, victim-blaming becomes the norm. If you’re a woman, you shouldn’t have dressed this way. If you’re a man, you should proved it by asserting your masculinity. The crime is always directed as the reflection of the victim’s character, instead of the perpetrator.

This is why it’s so important that Terry bravely stepped up and shared his story, despite the expected criticism. Unfortunately, male rape and sexual assault is an even bigger taboo and victims all over the world are still fighting to be heard. In the Philippines, male rape isn’t even recognized by the law. Obviously, we still have a long way from eliminating toxic masculinity, but victims speaking up is a giant step towards that. Terry opening up about his painful past can pave the way for more victims to come forward. What he did makes him more of a man than any of his detractors.

 

Art by Marian Hukom

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