Man down

The dark underbelly of forced masculinity harms men as they become vulnerable to being silent on incidents where they become victimized.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article mentions instances of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Readers are advised to proceed with caution.

As any burnt-out college kid would want after a long week, I only wanted some time to relax at our local mall. Yet what ensued was a nightmare ripped from the devil’s handbook. 

I was window shopping, aimlessly walking around until a group of men took me to their stall. The interaction felt innocent at first as they were only demonstrating how to use their skincare products, so it came as a shock when one of them started squeezing my arms while asking me personal questions like my Facebook account, my sexuality, and whether I’d join them for a night out in a local bar. I dodged these questions, but he was insistent, his hand inching closer toward my thigh after every iteration. 

I wanted to scream for help, but at that moment, I was too stunned to even speak. I felt outnumbered. My body froze; my brain became too weak to function. I felt my heart beating as fast and as loudly as it could. It went on for what felt like a gut-wrenching hour. When I got the chance to leave, I found myself crying in a cubicle in the men’s comfort room at the nearby Jollibee branch. 

Complicated thoughts drowned me for hours on end. I felt alone, like this had never happened before. Even if I wanted to talk to someone about it, I had no words to describe what had just taken place. I was telling myself that perhaps I was overreacting or that I could have misremembered some details. I was blaming myself for not leaving sooner. I wanted to believe that being a man exempted me from such a form of harassment. After all, that’s what I’ve been told my whole life: that as a man, I should have been the protector, not the victim. 

It didn’t help that all I had to cling to was mainstream media, which only portrayed sexual misconduct against men as comedic punchlines. Trying to be edgy, children’s entertainment such as Spongebob Squarepants or even modern blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy would usually use the “don’t drop the soap” joke that alluded to male sexual assault that happen in prisons. These quips only perpetuated the false notion that these encounters emasculate its victims. 

The tides seemingly changed at the height of the Me Too Movement, when Hollywood personalities finally had the courage to stand up against their abusers. While the movement was spearheaded by female celebrities, it also moved some men to speak out. One of them was Terry Crews, who had the immense bravery to tweet his story. It was a nice change of pace to the women-dominated conversation of sexual assault at the time, and it showed that anybody and everybody was susceptible to this kind of abuse. 

The aftermath showed Crews the double-edged nature of masculinity and sexual politics. Because he was a man, people were more open to believing his story. However, he was also met with doubt and pushback. Some dismissed the severity of his abuser’s actions, while some even blamed Crews for misunderstanding the situation. Many simply asked the question: Why did he not just punch his way out of it? After all, men are supposed to be strong, tough,and independent. 

Unfortunately, this is a widely held belief. Society has shunned and ridiculed men that showed any form of weakness. Despite being antiquated and obsolete in today’s world, many still cling to outdated ideals of gender roles.

But it seems inaccurate to box us into clear-cut categories. Being a man does not mean being always in control, being clever with every decision, and being always one step ahead of everyone else. We should be allowed to feel empowered when we want to and to show our vulnerabilities whenever we see fit. Genuine freedom is when we no longer feel bound by the norms that constrain us from expressing our truest and most honest selves. 

And in this matter, a little kindness goes a long way. It is difficult, but this freedom will only come when we start gradually unlearning what we have been taught how men and women are supposed to be. Create a safe space where you and your loved ones are allowed to be open, start a chain of understanding among your peers, and hope that this ripple makes an impact in wider society. 

For now, we still live in a world dominated by conservative ideals surrounding gender, but I choose to be optimistic. Many of my friends are expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo, and many are already fighting against it. Together, we can dismantle our current preconceptions about gender, and we can finally allow ourselves to be free at last.

This article was published in The LaSallian‘s March 2024 issue. To read more, visit

Andy Jaluague

By Andy Jaluague

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