Pathways: Optional discussion
The pathway discussion can be a useful aspect of group and individual discussion about what it means to 'be a man', and how the experience of sexual abuse has shaped men’s lives. Acknowledge that each man who has been sexually abused has to find a way to navigate and manage this expectation to live according to masculine norms (underlining that the key code word for masculinity may well be 'invulnerability').
For some men this involves resigning to live a small life, for some men it involves a life of struggle, for some men it involves engaging in and embodying hyper masculinity, for some men it involves moving between these different responses, and for others it means finding new or different pathways. Introducing the below list of 'identified pathways' can be used to open a discussion of the many different ways of responding. There is definitely no suggestion that men should try and 'fit' themselves within these 'identified pathways'; in fact, it can be more useful for men to identify their own unique 'personal pathway', or ways of responding as a man.
Resignation (living a small life):
As a male who has experienced fear and vulnerability, your world tells you that if you're scared and vulnerable you’re not a man. You resign yourself to this ambiguous state of being a man who does not identify himself as masculine, because being abused is associated with being vulnerable, and being vulnerable is associated with being 'weak'.
Struggle (therapy seeking):
You experience that same conflict of vulnerability vs. masculinity, but do not resign to it. You fight the fact that you feel less than, or like you don’t measure up. Eventually, you begin to question what your world is telling you about what it means to 'be a man', but usually not without a challenging struggle.
There is no conflict, because either you do not define what happened to you as abuse, do not consider that it affected you, or that it just made you tougher. You don't acknowledge that you have been or can be vulnerable. You see being vulnerable as a sign of 'weakness'. If anyone so much as suggests that you have weaknesses or vulnerabilities, there is a temptation to strike back. You feel uncomfortable when other people express vulnerability. You are the living essence of masculinity. In fact, there is no part of you that is anything but masculine.
Discuss which aspects seem to 'fit' for the men and the group, and encourage the men to name and describe their own journey/response.
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