Approaching Toxic Masculinity through #MeToo: Representations of Sexual Assault in American History X

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Miranda Brookshier


Since its inception in 2006, Tarana Burke’s #MeToo Movement has continued to affirm and support the experiences of survivors of sexual violence. Other outcomes from the #MeToo Movement include more open conversations about sexual assault and toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity has been linked to the prevalence of women’s sexual assault; however, in a culture dominated by its values, coming forward proves to be that much harder for male survivors, who are conditioned to believe that assault is a form of weakness. Film operates as one medium that strongly perpetuates this notion; through film, viewers create and take in ideas from popular culture. Highly heteronormative films like American History X subtly reinforce the biases and barriers created by toxic masculinity. This essay develops working definitions of rape, assault, and the prison rape trope and applies these definitions to an analysis of Tony Kaye’s 1998 film, American History X. Through my analysis of American History X, I will show how the trope preserves heteropatriarchal values that undermine the work of #MeToo and its critiques of toxic masculinity, thus muting conversations among male survivors of sexual violence. In spite of the challenges men experience in coming forward, former football player and current actor, Terry Crews, has sought to use his testimony to encourage others to realize that they, too, can find support in speaking up.

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