#MEN’too by Amine Hajji, Tunisia

Since October 2017, thousands of men in power have been crawling out of their skin, heavily drinking, and recalling every interaction they had with a woman which might be considered –surprisingly to them- as a form of sexual harassment. The “Breaking News” theme of every major media update for the past two months has been stories exposing and scrutinizing the accusations engulfing prominent, powerful men such as Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Steven Seagal, Al Franken and more.

In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, the #MeToo movement went viral. The campaign gave people a voice to expose and break the silence around sexual and gender-based violence and harassment. In light of this movement, I decided to search the Internet for any sexual harassment cases filed by a man against a woman, I found nothing.

Does anyone remember the odd Madonna and Drake moment on stage at Coachella in 2015? During the performance of “Human Nature”, Madonna gave Drake an unsolicited and non-consensual kiss in front of tens of thousands of fans. Drake was sitting on a chair, and Madonna planted a long kiss on him while rubbing his chest, while the crowd hysterically cheered it. Drake tried to get away from her grasp, but she pushed down his hands and resumed kissing him. Drake looked disgusted and unhappy. Surprisingly, when tweeters criticized her, she attacked them by writing ‘If you don’t like me and still watch everything I do… B**** you’re a fan’. A tweeter by the name of JmeBBK wrote: “If a man did to a woman, what Madonna did to Drake, it would be a bit rapey still.” Drake then adjusted reports of him being “disgusted” by Madonna’s kiss, saying “Don’t misinterpret my shock!! I got to make out with the queen Madonna, and I feel 100% about that forever. Thank you Madonna.”

Dear humans, MEN are subjected to sexual harassment too. Men may be victims of female sexual misconduct also. Are you laughing? That’s precisely the same reaction I got from my close friends when I discussed the topic with them. And that’s what kept me from telling them that I was not fired from my former job because of my misconduct on the workplace, but because I had had enough with being sexually harassed by a female supervisor. Men who are allegedly accused of sexual misconduct are being held accountable. Yet, the idea that a woman cannot be considered as a sexual predator seems outrageous to me.

Women are not exempt from inflicting pain on others. Women are not immune to being accused of sexual misconduct. This is not a gender ‘war’ or a blaming of ‘both sides’, this is an urgent call to recognize that sexual harassment is widespread and should not be tolerated in any form, by any gender. The same culture of silence that protected harassers of women also prevented men from accusing a woman of their sexual crimes.

I grew up in a society where men brag about touching a girl’s butt in a crowded flea market, or sending nude pictures to a girl they just added on Facebook, or feeling desirable and sexy when girls catcall them on the street, or their penis being rubbed in a very full bus by a stranger. Talking about female sexual harassment against men is considered ridiculous and is sometimes interpreted as being ‘gay’ for rejecting female sexual advances.

In 2013, I was working as a Telesales Representative. I had a close relationship with my colleagues, and we would often go out for a drink on weekends. In the workplace, everything seemed normal, except my supervisor’s attitude. The first incident occurred when she came to my desk she tilted her head behind me until I could feel her breath on my neck and said ‘Damn, you smell good’. I smiled and thanked her for the compliment. As days went by, she began to get physical with me. She started touching my shoulders or taking my arm when we were going to the cafeteria. Sexual innuendo dominated our conversations. Everything she said and every joke she made sounded terribly sexual.

At 12pm, my colleagues and I used to rush to the elevator, hoping to get to the nearby restaurant before it became overflooded with customers. One day, my supervisor intentionally stood in front of me and moved back her ‘behind’ backwards until it touched my genitals. I felt weird, ill, confused, petrified and disrespected. It was an inappropriate and unwelcome advance. Besides, having a girlfriend that I loved, I surely did not want to be involved in any bizarre ‘sex games’ with anyone, especially with my supervisor. I kept silent. What happened the next was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

My team organized a getaway trip after two weeks of working on an exhausting project. We stayed in a hotel with a view of the sea. At midnight, I got a text message from my supervisor saying: ‘Room 23. Come alone. The door is open. Say nothing to your roommates’. I was petrified. My colleagues kept asking why I looked so pale, like I had seen a ghost. I kept telling them that I had a migraine. I switched off my mobile phone and spent the night thinking of who the hell I should talk to, or what the hell I should do. I did not want to file a claim against her because I was afraid of being mocked by my coworkers. I felt embarrassed even thinking about what I was coping with.

The following few days were hell. She started to verbally and emotionally assault me. She wanted to even out the score and make me pay for not joining her in her room that night. Ultimately, I quit that job, and the motive I left for the Human Resources Department was ‘going back to my hometown to take care of a sick parent’. I spent two months looking for a new job and depended on my friends’ financial support and housing.

It was an abhorring, ugly and scarring experience. I couldn’t talk to my girlfriend for days due to this incident. I felt castrated and pitiful. I wished that my friends had stopped snickering about sexual assault of women against men, and realized such claims are serious and damaging. That would have helped me a lot.

Men or women in a position of power should ask themselves these questions; have I ever mistreated anyone or recklessly acted erroneously? Have I ever made any sexual innuendos to a subordinate? Have I ever hugged, kissed, touched someone or embarked in any physical relationship without their consent? Have I ever made a funny statement that was irrelevant, wrong or had the potential of making others feel uncomfortable? Am I protecting my employees and creating a healthy workplace environment for them? Am I even worthy of holding such a position?

Sexual harassment is a criminal act that should be directly challenged and combated at every opportunity. It is a widespread societal issue we are just starting to unearth. Hopefully, this sexualized pandemonium that is tolerated today will be condemned and prosecuted soon.

 

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