Trigger Warning. This is likely to be a challenging read.
We may have read about, or seen on TV, allegations of abuse against a famous person.
Abuse is always an abuse of power. The tools of abuse might be sexual, physical, emotional, psychological, financial, there are more, but the abuser ALWAYS occupies a position of power over the recipient of the abuse.
Why does it appear that cisgender male or assigned male at birth individuals are at greater risk of abusive behaviours than cisgender female or assigned female at birth individuals?
In the UK, and much of the globe, we have deeply entrenched patriarchal systems. We are exposed to patriarchal expectations from birth. Even pre-birth.
There are societal expectations that female children and women are caring nurturing, will put the needs of others before their own. You only need to observe role play in the under fives to see how embedded these expectations are.
These expectations come with mixed messages.
A constant complaint from school aged girls is that they are held to higher expectations of behaviour that their male counterparts.
This is often justified by the misogyny that 'girls mature more quickly than boys'. Yet the imbalance of responsibility that comes with 'maturity' does not follow girls into the workplace.
Girls persistently outperform boys in exams. The education system in the UK is unfit for purpose, that's for another blog, yet this success affords girls and women little advantage in the world of work where boys and men zoom past them receiving promotion and advancement.
How does this link with abuse and abusive behaviours?
Boys and men unconsciously carry a tremendous weight of expectation, that the world is theirs for the taking. If they are perceived to underachieve they are seen to be emasculated.
The patriarchy isn't working out great for boys and men. With power comes pressure. And male power is not distributed equally. Rich, white, straight, able cis men hold more power than poor, gay, trans, disabled men of colour. This is a very binary example that requires far more nuance but I think you can figure it out.
The number one cause of death in men under 40 years old is suicide.
The more power any of us holds the greater are our opportunities to abuse our power.
If we position ourselves in plain sight we are protected from scrutiny.
The person who is currently experiencing scrutiny, I read their autobiography when it was first published and had a certain amount of admiration for their trajectory. They recovered from drug addiction.
The allegations are from a seven year period when they were at the peak of their fame. Fame equals power.
At this time they were drug free. Drug and alcohol use is not a mitigating factor in abuse but certainly is known to impair our judgement.
It's not impossible that an addiction to drugs was replaced with an addiction to sex.
However, promiscuousness is consensual and not predatory.
When we try to make sense of abuse, we are inclined due to our unconscious conditioning, to favour a narrative in which the recipient of the abuse, let's pretend for the sake of illustration the recipient is a girl or a woman, has a responsibility to prevent the abuse.
When we poke at this misogynistic bubble with logic it bursts.
Not one of us can consent to our own abuse.
I'll say that again for the people at the back.
IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO CONSENT TO OUR OWN ABUSE
Being drunk is not consent.
Using drugs is not consent.
Being unconscious is not consent.
The clothes we wear is not consent.
Being naïve is not consent.
Being vulnerable is not consent.
Being lonely is not consent.
Being impressed / awestruck / star struck is not consent.
If it takes a survivor of abuse a long time to speak out it doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Maybe society has a responsibility to help our boys and men to understand that they are not the centre of the universe.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I know. Not all men.
Not all men behave abusively.
But all women plan for their safety in ways that are alien to men.
Ask the women in you life about their experiences.
Ask them about the time a man used his sense of entitlement to stand too close on public transport.
Ask them about the time a man groped them in a crowded pub / club / concert / festival.
I am heartbroken that this is still happening to all the women and girls whose experiences are not newsworthy.
And I am so grateful to the women who share their experiences and in doing so give permission for us all to own our stories.