Being a Boy: Controlling Boundaries

Originally posted on July 23, 2007

One of the biggest issues in advocating for male victims is trying to get people to accept the boundaries males set. Society teaches males that they have no right to boundaries by virtue of their gender. Males are taught at a very young age that because they are male they should be capable of dealing with any kind of violation, so there is no need for personal boundaries. Part of existing as a person is the creation of personal limitations, a defining of what one is comfortable with. In order to truly exercise one’s rights as a person one must be allowed to do this without shame or fear of mockery. Of course, there are those who relish the notion of bringing shame against men. One such person recounts an event in which a woman used the men’s restroom at a baseball game and the reaction of the men who were all in the restroom:

As I approached one of the large urinals I saw a 20’s ish young lady moving out of the restroom. I have to presume that there was a line for the women’s room and she had decided instead to use the men’s room.

For me it was amusing and not an issue.

I heard several men responding to what was happening (not positively). One in particular said: “She had a smirk on her face” in apparent anger at “his” male space being violated (I’m guessing).

While not attributing too much meaning to what happened, it seemed and seems amusing to me to see what it can feel like when men have “their space” invaded and feel disempowered faintly, faintly in ways that women and girls and sometimes even boys may face in many other ways more frequently from (some) adult men.

The delusions of frequent female disempowerment aside, it is interesting to find someone relishing in the violation of men’s boundaries while complaining about the violation of women’s boundaries. When the author is later called on his clear double standard, he defends in it a rather odd way:

you seem to be confusing different standards with double standards, and oversimplifying the situation while you’re at it.

If all else in our society/world/reality were equal, it would be a double-standard. Unfortunately, things aren’t equal–most rape, for instance, involves men raping women; as such, pseudo-private, enclosed, sometimes lockable-from-the-inside spaces are considerably safer for women if they are gender-specific. (This is an extreme example, of course, and there are lots of other reasons we might want to have gender-specific restrooms.) So, there are different standards for men and women as regards gendered spaces like bathrooms because, in part, of the real-world power differences involved.

It is interesting that he mentioned rape, because the sentiment he holds in support of women violating males’ boundaries is exactly the same sentiment female rapists and abuser hold when they violate men and boys. They feel male boundaries carry no value and need not be respected as males are “different” or because of some deep disdain or hatred against males. The author’s sentiment is also one of the main reasons why male victims of abuse are subjected to blatant sexism and discrimination from the support community.

The other intriguing element of this statement about rape is the complete failure to understand the multitude of reasons why men would not want women violating their space. For some it is simply a matter of privacy. For others it is a cultural and social norm. And yet for many it is a response to having had women violate those boundaries before. It could range from a mother forcing her son to be nude in front of her to having been raped by a woman. It could also be an extension domestic violence or of controlling spouses or partners. Or perhaps it is just a feeling of disempowerment by having their boundaries completely ignored. And one must factor in the other group of males: boys. Apparently it is also appropriate for a woman to violate the privacy and boundaries of the boys who also use the men’s restroom.

The most curious element of this sentiment is how it plays in reverse. If males feel disempowered by this act, this implies women in turn feel empowered by the same act. If they did not, they would not use the men’s restroom. One must wonder then why women would feel empowered by violating a man’s or a boy’s boundaries. The title of the post is “Being ‘in Control’.” Indeed, it would seem that the author’s sentiment is that males have no right to be in control of their own spaces. Women should be able to violate them at their leisure, even to the extent of exposing boys to potential female abuse. The double standard then is not just about violating boundaries, but about who gets to set them.

Again, this sentiment is exactly the same notion one sees used by female abusers and rapists. It is the notion that their wants and desires trump any male’s–including boys–need for privacy and personal boundaries. It is sad to see someone who gleefully supports the violation of another person’s rights purely out of spite while mocking them for feeling violated. However, what is most distressing is that this sort of feeling leads to allowing abuse.

12 thoughts on “Being a Boy: Controlling Boundaries

  1. Fearing rape from random men is rational fearing rape from random women is irrational…
    Do feminists want equality or not? If they want equality be EQUAL FFSS:DLKFJSDF

  2. Very wise writing TS!

    The massive size and scope of the problem you describe is one that is growing in violence every day. Many women feel that men are not sufficiently human to deserve rights, so do a great many men.

    This goes to the size,scope and violence of the uber-human belief for males. That is, the belief that all males are lesser beings.

    One thing about the bathroom thing I have noticed. If I complain about a woman in a bathroom, all of the women will SCREAM that it is illegal for a woman to use the men’s room. They will not and cannot hear that the law makes no difference! The women still DO use the men’s room. It is frustrating beyond any measure imaginable: There’s just no possibility of communicating the issue: “A law that cannot be enforced is not a law!”

    I’ve yet to find even one female who can understand just how frustrating this is.

  3. If the situation were reversed, the women would react with physical violence. Maybe an inicdent or two on a trespassing women would be a blow for equality – of course it wouldn’t; the men would be hauled off to jail, unlike the women.

  4. Me again.

    “They feel male boundaries carry no value and need not be respected as males are “different” ”

    This is part of the Mother role. And when you are raising an infant, there really is no room for boundaries. no problem. The problem arises only if you have a woman who feels like she is everyone’s Mother. There is a diagnosis for this kind orf thing – one of the Cluster B disorders.

    “It is sad to see someone who gleefully supports the violation of another person’s rights purely out of spite while mocking them for feeling violated. ”

    Eactly this kind of thing is veing repirted on the reactions fo some Swedish feminits to the Tiger woods afair. I posted links over at Pelle’s blog.

  5. This is part of the Mother role. And when you are raising an infant, there really is no room for boundaries. no problem. The problem arises only if you have a woman who feels like she is everyone’s Mother. There is a diagnosis for this kind orf thing – one of the Cluster B disorders.

    That may be true in some cases, however, I think in many situations women violate males boundaries because of social perceptions about how males should react. The notion is that males should not be bothered by the violation and also that females are incapable of violating males. It is these two concepts that, I believe, cause women to ignore male boundaries.

  6. TS, I follow you on the violating of boundaries against males. I could go on for days about this one. You already know about the woman who raped me. Yeah, slight boundary violation there. Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to be bothered by that according the rape apologists. Well, a few more examples (of many), women I’ve met who felt quite welcome to violate boundaries without fear of consequence:

    A former girlfriend who allowed her best friend to rub on my crotch and butt in the apartment and in public. Apparently, this was the height of hilarity as my girlfriend at the time would just giggle. Nevermind that even my blind cousin could have seen that I was uncomfortable with this type of interaction with my girlfriend’s friend. Imagine if the genders were reversed. This would not have been so funny.

    Then we have the female sanitation worker at one job who would start cleaning the men’s room regardless of whether a man was present and using the facilities. I doubt the reverse would have been tolerated for a second.

    Another example is the female coworker who, upon discovering that I had been raped by a woman, would get in my personal space and tell me about what she wanted to do to me while rubbing my back, shoulders or arms, etc.

    And, of course, two women using the men’s room at the annual “Taste of the South” event in DC. They were drunk and thought the whole thing was just soooooo funny as they looked at men at the urinals and giggled. I’m sure it would have been just as funny if a couple of drunk men went into the ladies room, right?!

    Alright, I’m getting annoyed now so I’ll stop here.

  7. I think one bleeds into the other. I think that taking care of children tends to make a dictator out of you because often, at least in the early years, it’s the only approach that works. That creates a gender role.

    Paradoxically the gender stereotype of female frailty spins this wheel from the other side, and a round and around it goes faster and faster. This is what you are identifying as the notion that women cannot violate men.

  8. It’s time to push back, James. A female custodian in the men’s room at an inappropriate time neds to sent out, by whatever menas are necesaary, and then the men who do it need to be supported, politically, legally and perhaps even financially. Men’s passivity and de facto indulgence of women’s physical aggression needs to ned. It must end. Men have to be willing to push back physically against physical attacks right up to the limit of the law.

  9. These are really good examples of what I was eluding to. I think boundary violations happen more often than we realize, especially to males. While in college I would notice the same thing about female sanitation workers entering the men’s room while students were still in there. The odd part was that male workers would generally leave unless they were changing the paper towels. They would not start working as men were using the restroom. The other thing I noticed was that female workers were less inclined to knock to find out if anyone was in the restroom. They just tended to enter unannounced.

    I think that goes to the larger problem of the presumption that males should not be bothered with their personal space is violated. What surprises me is how often those violations are physical or sexual in nature, much as you described. I cannot think of many instances with the violation has solely been verbal. Almost all of the cases I have experienced or heard of have been women or girls physically doing something along with saying something that would make men and boys uncomfortable.

  10. I definitely think there is crossover, but I am not sure how much the Mother role plays in terms of this being generally acceptable. It seems more like it is related to notions about female frailty and male strength. What I find most coincidental is that those who wish to remove such gender roles have no problem attacking male strength, but will not acknowledge female strength on any substantive level. The moment there is any discussion about interactions between the sexes, the notion that women can do intentional or unintentional harm is outright dismissed.

    As for men’s passivity and de facto indulgence of women’s physical aggression, addressing that will prove difficult not only because of the cultural history and social norms society is built on, but also because there will be people who will actively dismiss and work against efforts to female physical and sexual aggression by labeling it misogyny or anti-feminism. There are also the countless men who have been raised to write this off, so that even if they agree it is aggravating or harmful, they would rather cope with it rather than look like they are complaining about something a woman did to them.

  11. And if you “called” these women on it, they would be genuinely hurt because they mean nothing inappropriate that they are aware of. That’s the culture’s sexism, not thier own.

    But here’s their sexism. If you go onto explain what is inappropriate, that is when they get angry – what do you mean you don’t welcome my touch? What do you mean, that I’m dirty, perverted, what?” No shit, girlfriend, all that and more. It’s the fact that they get angry, that they don’t see what is wrong, that is thier own sexism.

  12. That has been my experience. The reaction is purely defensive as if I could never have a valid reason for not wanting to be touched.

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