The other day I received an email from reader Kevin who is concerned about the increase in the depiction of sexual violence — particularly that of genital assault — against men in our society:
Dear Dr. Helen,
I want to ask you about something because you seem to be a logical and rational person and I am having trouble finding any logical, rational people who have the guts to speak out about this one particular issue.
Ever since I was a kid I have noticed a steady rise in the depictions of sexual violence against males in movies, and later in television. It was obvious that these depictions, always the hero sexually assaulting the villain and almost never the other way around, were encouraging this kind of sexual violence against males. As soon as it became a regular Disney staple it became a regular part of every boy’s life, something he had to endure repeatedly as part of growing up. Even as a kid I was baffled by parents willingness to let this go and not protest it.
As I got older I realized that because it is a kind of castration and extremely emotionally hurtful to males, even grown men simply won’t talk about it. Women laugh, and during the Bobbitt trial the media even made fun of the way men are noticeably hurt by simply hearing about a man being hurt there and even more so by seeing it. Women seemed to find it humorous that one man being sexually abused or castrated in this way caused such pain and discomfort for all males who saw or heard of it. But still nothing was ever done to protest or condemn this abuse.
I thought I would share this email with PJM readers because it is such an important issue. As reader Kevin points out, no one notices or cares about violence against men’s genitals, except to poke fun of those men who are kicked or hit in the balls. People even make fun of men whose penises are severed, as in the case of John Wayne Bobbitt. I think Kevin is correct — no one cares or deals much with the trauma this act may cause to men. I often see shows where a man is kicked in the groin and this is often depicted as funny or “no big deal.” Imagine the uproar if a women were punched in the breast on a television show. It is unthinkable.
There has been research looking at non-sexual genital assault on boys, though I would think that most kicking, punching, or hitting in that area has to be somewhat sexual in nature. Kevin mentions the work of Dr. David Finkelhor, author of books such as A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse. Finkelhor did research on non-sexual genital assault in boys. He found that a number of males had been assaulted in this way. Apparently, there are many boys who are being victimized from something called “ball-tapping,” which is described as follows by a news source:
“Ball tapping” is the act of intentionally hitting or kicking a male in the genitals. Earlier this month, an Eyewitness News investigation showed the game has become commonplace in some area schools, resulting in serious injuries for students.
As part of the investigation, WTHR also conducted a statewide survey of school nurses. The results are in, and they show the problem of ball tapping is more common and widespread than many school officials had realized.
The assault on men and boys in this way is astonishing. The media and society seem to encourage it with jokes, gags, and laughs every time a man’s genitals are damaged. I think we should all fight back against this abuse, for the repercussions of young men being damaged in this way are devastating. They include depression, suicide, and taking out the abuse on others as well as themselves. The sadistic men and women who laugh at this type of assault should be called out by all of us who care about the future of males in this country. We’ve all been told rape jokes aren’t funny, and society has gotten the message. Why is the genital assault of men any different?
Do you think this is a widespread problem?