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Redefining Gender Roles

Big Boys Should Cry

With the number of male suicides, reports of domestic violence, and sexual assaults against men worldwide on the rise, it is believed that a large number of cases are still going unreported. For many, reporting these types of crimes are often seen as a weakness or a source of shame, creating a cycle in which those committing the crimes can carry on offending without any consequences. Boys and men are taught what it means to be a man from a young age, but not that bad things sometimes happen. Things that are out of their control and, most importantly, are not their fault. Is it now time that we all say big boys should cry?
  Don’t cry
Many men growing up would often hear the phrase, big boys don’t cry when they were in pain or hurt themselves, a phrase ingrained into them from a young age. Often, our gender defines the way we are expected to behave or act. From our sex assigned at birth to the societies in which we grow up, all teach us what is expected of us and how we should behave as men or women.

If gender roles are taught, then male toxicity around acting macho or not complaining when hurt are things that we can change. The image men are required to portray results in many crimes going unreported, including domestic violence in the home or rape from the same or opposite sex. For many men, their pride and outward appearance or image have meant that those committing these serious crimes are not being held to account, caught, or prosecuted.

Men have indeed ruled the world for thousands of years. Let us not forget that it is only in the last two hundred years that women only started to get their fundamental human rights. However, this is not about equality or portraying men as victims; it is more about male behaviours and why serious crimes are going unreported. With high rates of suicide, large numbers sleeping rough and growing numbers being subjected to domestic violence, it is about time we all say Big Boys should cry.
  Definition of Masculinity
Throughout the centuries and for thousands of years, the definition and expectations relating to genders have changed. From early man, gender roles and society were more animal-like, with alpha and beta, hunters and gathers to the ancient world in which sexuality was much more fluid. Genders and sex have often also been used as a weapon, with conquering forces raping, killing and imprisoning of, often innocent bystanders. The consistent image throughout the ages is around men being strong, alpha, fearless and brave. Any sign of weakness is seen as a failure and especially not playing a passive role.

Most ancient societies were more accepting of same-sex relationships; however, a man’s role during intercourse was clear. For example, in Roman culture, it was generally accepted that a man could sleep with other men as long as they were active, effectively penetrating, rather than passive. Though some in high society may have been more passive behind closed doors, their image and social standing depended on being seen as strong in public. Historically, those more passive were often slaves or sex workers, often living on the fringes of society. Rape amongst conquering forces and even within the military was also a problem; it was so bad that a law was passed in ancient Rome. The law protected any man who had been raped to ensure that they would not lose face or social standing amongst society.

Gender roles and definitions change between cultures; however, there are consistent themes. Men should be brave, be strong, be defenders, protectors, and above all, not show signs of weakness. These expectations are presented directly and indirectly through music, films, literature, friends and families. How often do you see men cry in films? Can you think of any heroes or main characters that portray or even declare their vulnerabilities or perceived weaknesses? Things are changing, and the media and entertainment industry are getting better at changing the narrative; however, toxic masculinity is ingrained into our societies and within our psyches.
  Consequences of the Expectations

It is difficult to understand or explain the full extent or size of the problem, given that many men are still reluctant to come forward. Many are afraid to share, even with people they are close with, when they are depressed or have suffered physical or mental abuse. Though attitudes are still changing, for many, the idea of seeking help is seen as a weakness. Admitting that they have been bullied, molested, or harmed somehow is something that many feel ashamed of and become secretive about what has happened to them.

When some do come forward, they have been ridiculed and made fun of on the various social media platforms, playgrounds, or at work. Abuse is not just physical but also mental. Men can also be victims, humiliated, called names and sworn at by their partners, living in fear around how their partner might act or behave. Still, often it is not as well known, talked about or publicised.

On average, over 800 thousand people take their lives each year; of that number, the ratio is roughly 2 to 1 of men taking their lives, compared to women. That ratio dramatically increases amongst men in some countries such as Brazil and Russia. It is estimated over 80% of people that are homeless or sleep rough are men, and men are four times more likely to be murdered than women.

According to the Office of National Statistics (, in the UK, for the period ending March 2020, 3.6% or 757 thousand men experienced some form of domestic abuse. It is estimated that 85% of prison inmates in the UK have experienced sexual assault. The number of assaults, domestic violence cases and suicide rates is rising; however, many crimes go unreported. More men are encouraged to come forward; the police and various support groups have services designed to support men going through these challenging situations.

Even amongst the LGBTQIA+ community, there has been a reluctance to report serious crimes to authorities, especially when living in hostile countries. The problem is compounded if the individual has not fully come to terms with their sexuality or is not publicly out to friends and family. Not only that, but there is also horror like stories of reporting crimes and victims being treated like criminals themselves or, worse, being ignored. The barriers are not the same within every country; however, if same-sex acts are illegal, it is difficult for a person to report being raped when they could get into trouble for identifying as LGBTQIA+.

Some videos have surfaced on social media platforms over the years in which vigilantes would take turns raping young men. Young men caught having same-sex relationships, abused by straight men, who use sex as a weapon designed to humiliate and degrade these LGBTQIA+ individuals.


The sick and depraved individuals carrying out these horrendous acts are often calculated. Abusing someone’s trust or targeting those they know will find it challenging to report the crimes committed against them. Straight or LGBTQIA+, the reality is that the perpetrators are using someone’s vulnerabilities, insecurities or situation against them. It might not always be easy to report such crimes, especially in hostile situations or countries. However, the most crucial step is to reach out for help, whether official or through support groups, groups often made up of people in or who have been in similar situations.

In safer, more tolerant countries, it is vital to reach out to the police and ensure that all crimes are reported. It is not a weakness, shameful or even their fault. If a person has not given consent, were drugged, drunk or forced under duress to carry out or perform acts or be in situations they are not comfortable with happening. Those carrying out these acts should be held to account and prosecuted for the crimes that they have committed.

A person that has been subjected to these acts are not a victim; they are survivors. They survived horrible situations and have no reason to feel shame, especially for things that happened to them outside of their control. Asking for help, seeking out similar people can help, even if it is one person.

When we go through traumatic experiences and internalise, we will often look at the situation only from our perspective; what did I do? How did I let this happen? Did I do something that caused this situation to occur? Internalising is dangerous as we often let the person committing the actual crime off the hook by blaming ourselves. Speaking to others will help us understand what happened and how it is not the person who has been targeted who is at fault.

To all those who have been bullied, in an abusive relationship, or forced into a sexual act without your consent, I am truly sorry this has happened to you. It is essential to remember it is not your fault, and you have nothing to be ashamed about concerning what happened. Reach out and get help; you have value, and big boys should cry.

If you need help, click here to search for support groups or services in your area or country. (


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