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This article was first published 11 years ago

When men are sexually harassed

Last updated on: May 3, 2012 18:02 IST

Photographs: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Gayatri Parameswaran, Courtesy

Althought they are targeted less frequently than women, Indian men are also victims of molestation.

Last week a male friend of mine told me that he felt sexually harassed.

He thought I had reacted quite casually. It raised a storm -- when men face harassment, it's just not the same. It doesn't make headlines. "Why is it atrocious when a woman feels harassed and almost a joke when a man gets molested?" he asked me angrily. Quite naturally, I began wondering about it.


This friend of mine had gone to get an Ayurvedic massage at a medically certified massage centre somewhere in South India. Everything was fine until the masseur began fondling his genitals.

"He came close to my groin a few times and then finally held my penis and started stroking it. I didn't know how to react -- I kept wondering if it was normal procedure. I was damn uncomfortable," he told me.

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A 'joke'

Photographs: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

I found the whole situation quite funny. I reacted inappropriately. Passed a few rude comments about whether the whole affair had turned him on. "You would never say that to a woman if she were in my position. Why is it a joke to you if I am telling you I felt molested," he shouted back at me.

Very true. I was being insensitive. I apologised and pushed him to tell me more about it. "First it was that, and then the man took me to the shower and washed my penis. It was the closest I have been to any man in my whole life," he said.



Photographs: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

I asked why he had said nothing to the masseur. "I wasn't sure what was going on," he said. "It was the first time I was getting this kind of massage. Was it routine to get your genitals touched during a massage? Would I sound retarded if I said something?"

In hindsight, I thought none of that mattered. What mattered was that he felt uncomfortable. Someone was intruding into his private space and he had all the right in the world to ask them to back off. Traditional or not, that massage definitely did not do any good for him.


Not man-like

Photographs: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

I sympathised with my friend and wondered how common it was for men to be sexually harassed. A survey in the UK conducted a few years ago found that eight percent of the calls to a sexual harassment helpline were from men.

"But that says nothing. Men just won't complain as much. It's seen as being less manly if a man is sexually dominated. And even less manly if he can't deal with it. I wouldn't be telling everyone about what happened to me," my friend explained.

That sounded bad -- a victim ashamed of being one. "Well, that's part of the game. Living in a male-dominated culture has its flip side," he said and changed the topic of conversation.

Tags: UK