Whenever many people hear about abuse of boys and men, they simply think of the times they read news items about young boys being molested by older men or how men have been abused by others. This, however, isn’t all there is to the subject. I dare say a lot of guys have been abused and don’t even know it. This is because of our narrow perception of what abuse is. The saddest part about this side of male abuse I will like to share is that, many men are told to be strong and act tough about a lot of things they go through. From childhood, they are taught to be gangster, tough, hard, you name it. In some cases, some are ‘‘praised’’ while being abused. Let me share some personal experiences with you, so you better understand what I mean.
High School Madness
Like many boys in high school, I went through crazy experiences at the mercy of seniors. On one of such occasions, some seniors woke us up late at night, instructed us to march to the common room, strip naked and kneel down in a corner. As if that was not enough, they started jeering at us based on the size of our manhood. It was crazy! On other occasions, one of them would walk into the dorm and use a mosquito pole to beat students who were resting for no apparent reason—they were probably stressed or very high. All of this, however, was seen as normal because boys have to be tough. High school or teenage years are seen as the toughening phase for guys who are expected to see anything brutal or abnormal as normal. Unfortunately, these are some of the experiences that go a long way to affect some people and their behavioral patterns; they grow up to think it’s normal and acceptable to abuse kids and women or destroy the very families they build. The ‘‘tough’’ guys society train boys to become, eventually grow up to inflict pain on others simply because of the personal issues they deal with.
“Suga Mama, No Consent”
During my university days, there were rumors that some girls went to rooms to make out with guys against their will. It scared me to death. I must explain that the biggest reason I was scared was that the first time I was kissed was against my will, by a girl—a friend—who kept flirting with me and “harassing me” but I couldn’t tell anyone. I mean dude, you were going to get kissed for free right? Who would listen to me? In university and high school, when people indulge in anything sexual, they are seen as being cool because they crossed the bridge first.
I also had an experience at work (after secondary school) where a senior colleague kept pestering me. She referred to me as her boyfriend and insisted on a hug each time she saw me. It felt uncomfortable, but who could I tell? One day, whiles alone in my office, she popped in, reached out for a hug and bent over to kiss me.
I felt used!! But who could I tell? Many young thirsty brothers would have congratulated me for such an experience.
So back to the university story, these girls eventually came to my room one day. I was playing video games on my laptop, while others were dancing to some music. All of a sudden, the lights were turned off and a dim one was illuminated. One of the girls came over to me, turned me around in my seat and sat on me. My heart raced as I realized I was about to experience the stories I had heard. Then my friends began chanting my name in excitement as the girl leaned forward to kiss me. It didn’t last for 5 or 10 seconds but almost 30 seconds. Someone might ask if I loved it or felt on top of my game when it was over? No, I felt like rubbish!
I don’t think I am the only guy who has dealt with unwelcome advances from women they aren’t into. But the thing is, who talks about these experiences? I guess we are designed to keep it all in and deal with the desires, fears and frustrations alone.
Now to the familiar cases. Truthfully, I feel young boys and teenagers are mostly prone to abuse. Most of these experiences happen in their youthful years at the mercy of adults (father and mother figures, uncles, cousins) they trusted, bullies and seniors among others.
I know a story of a boy who woke up to see his roommate giving him a blowjob. There are others who woke up to naked boys lying next to them. These instances are quite common in our secondary and tertiary schools. These victims hardly report these issues, and sometimes only manifest the trauma of the abuse. Some get confused, others get timid or become abusive. We judge and label these men—not a basis to defend their actions—but I have come to realize most of these people need help.
Before I talk about healing, I want to address another aspect of this topic which is emotional abuse. When you are made to constantly feel you are worthless what happens? Many guys are timid, lack confidence and self-esteem because their parents or their exes made them feel they wouldn’t amount to anything. These harmful words sow seeds of negativity which can cause a ripple effect of suppression, stagnation and the belief that they are actually worthless if not addressed.
The healing process
How does healing start? They say it’s a taboo for men to cry but men are equally human with emotions.Therefore, it is good for them to cry out the pain, hurt and grief they hold on to. Honestly, I only discovered why I had been paranoid about girls for a long time, only after I had a very open conversation with a new friend. I made this new friend at an art exhibition I organized which centred on the abuse of women and girls. The bare truths we discussed weighed on me and I could hardly sleep. I mentioned at the exhibition that I hadn’t been abused because I thought abuse was all about sodomy. But I was wrong like many other people. The experiences I went through in high school and after which were shameful affected me in ways I had never realized.
In relation to emotional abuse, I have had my share of relationships where I felt like rubbish: like a broke, untalented man who was seeking the love of a girl who undervalued him and treated him with disdain. This really affected me in various ways including my interactions with people and my outlook toward life. I lost confidence in who I was and hardly went out for social functions. I was always on guard and cut off anyone who tried to hurt me or reminded me of traumas from the past. I bottled up so many things. I couldn’t navigate any relationship effectively. A turn around in my thought process began to take place when my girlfriend gave me a gift ; wholeness by Toure Roberts. Reading this book showed me the need for healing and helped me to connect to parts of my life I hadn’t focused on. I learned to sit down and have honest conversations with people who hurt me and not bottle in the feelings. I learned patience—still learning lol. I learned to let go off grudges and offenses. Truth is, the greater your abuse, the more susceptible you are to become resentful and unforgiving. But these are the very attributes that keep a man from fulfilling His God-given purpose.
I must say art and writing have been very therapeutic for me as well. Channeling my emotions and thoughts into writing and art with the goal of helping others, was enough to liberate me from the weight I felt after realizing I was abused in the past. There was a stigma to the word, but after God moved, I realized that healing was found in channeling our energies into helping others.
Lastly, I want to say that we need to stand together as men to call out the very things that bring us into disrepute. We should rise up to be each other’s keeper, to comfort, guide and support each other. Healing from abuse begins when the vail of toughness is removed. For some healing may take days and for others, several months. No matter how slow it may be, let’s decide to face our fears and heal from the things we hardly talk about.
Let’s get talking!