Gender, is a social construct. Sex is biological. A person may be born male, female or any of the other biological sexes that do exist in nature. But people identify as one of the two most common sexes throughout their life, making it their gender. And those who are confident in declaring they have an ‘ambiguous gender identity’, are not really represented anywhere. They might be given representation in government forms, which has also happened after a long battle, but every where else, especially societally speaking, they are practically treated like they are not supposed to exist. They even face a dilemma over which public restroom to enter. It is therefore easy to deduce why there are numerous biological sexes, but just two genders.
One would think that at least after establishing a gender, they are equally safe in this world. That would be the case in an ideal, utopian world. That world is far away from the world we do live in. It is no secret that females are considered more vulnerable to sexual abuse than males. Perhaps targeting the female gender is ingrained in us. Right from infancy, females are portrayed as tolerating, accepting humans, and men as the conquerers and invaders. Every exploration story, war story, discovery story, talks about men doing the work. Women are mentioned as those that are left behind. Those that the men come to after their battle. Or women are painted as those who tempted the men when they were away from their wives. Women were rarely painted as women of substance. This makes a certain kind of man assume a powerful status. It makes him assume that he is more powerful and it is his right to assert that power on to the ‘lesser gender’. To escape that notion would be difficult in any society, and twice as much in a patriarchal society.
Physically speaking, men and women are actually equally strong. But for centuries now, women have been painted as physically weak. Hence, again, a certain kind of man uses that when he forces himself on a woman. When a boy of 14, sexually abuses a girl of his age or lesser, he does so with a confidence that he will be able to fight her down. Thus, the female gender, through stereotypes, has been made more vulnerable to sexual assault. When an older man forcefully marries a girl child, it is stereotypes associated with the gender that let him get away with it. It is societal constructs about the female gender that force that same girl child to stay in the marriage, and be raped every time her husband decides to. It is these stereotypes that make transgenders who dress as women more vulnerable to sexual assault than others.
When a girl child is sexually abused, it is her very gender that becomes the reason her parents do not want to report. ‘Girls are a family’s reputation”, is that stereotypical sentence that makes the girl and her family silent after an assault. When a girl of 15 goes to friends birthday in a pretty dress, which she is now expected to wear because she is growing up and should dress like a woman, and is oogled at by numerous men on the street, it is her gender that put her in that unfortunate place. Women(at times even adolescents) are very conveniently blamed for dressing provocatively, leading to rape. And at the same time, in the same city, those who are clad head to toe, are considered unattractive. Society’s confusion about how they want one half of the human race to behave has eternally problematised their lives. People claim that it is a girls breasts and the fact that she has a vagina that attracts men towards her. It is actually everything but that. When girls as old as 4 years of age are sexually abused, it is definitely not their physique that was the focus of attraction. Girls are not biologically damned. They are socially damned.
Men, are the victim of stereotyping, too. Adolescent boys are stereotyped to be strong and invincible. They are considered to be constantly cruising for cool things to do. They are even considered sexual predators. But statistically considering, they are more victim to child sexual assault. And these are just the reported ones. Men find it difficult to report cases of abuse, as they run the risk of people questioning their masculinity, which, they didn’t personally ask for but are forced to live up to, because of societal constructs. Men are often victims of manipulated consent, especially when peers are involved because they do not want to be seen as behaving abnormally. When an older female sexually abuses a younger boy, he is expected to ‘enjoy the ride’. In fact, new age media will even try to convince them that they are supposed to consider themselves fortunate if an older woman pursues them. This indicates that a lot of young boys who have been sexually abused aren’t even aware it was abuse and that they have the right to protest.
When the movie The perks of being a wallflower was released, it fuelled a lot a debate. People came to the realisation that male child sexual abuse does exist, and should be spoken about. It is one thing to be a vulnerable group, and it is a whole other thing to not even be recognised as a vulnerable group, in spite of statistics, which show 52% male victims of child sexual abuse, and 48% female child victims of sexual abuse, because the society has painted a certain image of you.
Adults who are accused of sexual abuse are in majority of the cases, known to the child.
And in the case of strangers, female child is the one more protected, because of their assumed weakness and fragility.
Men are more exposed and are assumed to have come with the skill set to defend themselves. A girl child is given numerous instructions before leaving the house, but a male child is assumed to be street smart and capable enough to protect himself. That puts him more at risk, not only before powerful adults, but also peers, who might themselves be victims of sexual abuse. It is also reported that victims of sexual abuse often become offenders themselves. Thus, this vicious cycle becomes more and more dangerous to both genders, because of the social constructs and stereotypes related to them. Who is more powerful thus depends not on the gender, but on the level of manipulation and prevalence and importance of stereotypes in the society.