Feminism and Ignoring Aspects of Rape

Rape is indisputably a horrible, tragic, and often life-altering event. There is never a situation in which rape is warranted–no one is ever “asking for it.” Rape culture is heavily prevalent in our society and part of the reason that feminism is so necessary. Rape and all aspects of rape are absolutely terrible. This is what I consider to be the truth and I am not arguing against any of this.

What I am arguing, however, is that rape culture and current feminism itself are all too happy to ignore certain aspects of rape that also need to be discussed.

We had a talk on date rape in health class (which was certainly less than ideal, but I’m going to get into that in another post). I think pretty much everyone can agree date rape is a pretty shitty thing, whether it’s through the use of drugs and alcohol or through violence. Our culture is littered with pamphlets and PSAs and classes on how to prevent date rape, or how to escape in the event of an assault, or how to avoid it entirely. On a less-than-subtle level this is definitely a form of victim blaming–however, it is a reality that sexual assaults committed by acquaintances or partners do occur, and if an individual feels they want to take measures to protect themselves then they will probably be safer for it. It is reported that ninety percent of date rapes involve alcohol use.

With that said, consider the following scenario–it’s one that I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with, whether through pop culture or their own experiences. A girl is at a college party with some of her friends. She’s had a bit to drink (maybe a bit too much). The party is packed and she gets separated from her friends in the confusion. A guy around her age takes her up to the second floor and leads her into a room. He tries to have sex with her and she doesn’t want to–but she’s too drunk to get a single word out, even if that word is “No.”

Looking at this scenario, most would agree it’s rape, especially those in feminist circles. If someone is too inebriated to consent to sex then it is non-consensual. Even if we look at it from a purely legal standpoint rather than a psychological one, this is almost indisputably rape.

But what if the genders of the individuals were reversed?

We, as a society, are starting to actively teach young girls to embrace their sexuality. Women and girls, now more than ever, are encouraged to take initiative in sexual situations and to pursue their own unique agency. It’s a great thing, and we as a culture are only going up from here.

But I can’t tell you how many times friends have said to me “I want to get x drunk enough that he’ll make out/have sex with me.” Hell, I’ve said it myself a few times (ableit half-joking). If a guy said this or something similar about a girl, I can guarantee you nine times out of ten he would get screamed at until he went deaf. But if a girl says this about a guy, a lot of the time she’s actively encouraged. But does this not count as rape?

Men are often ignored when it comes to considering them as victims and survivors of sexual assault. While it’s true that women make up the majority of assault victims, it is estimated that one in ten rape victims are, in fact, male. That’s ten percent–it’s not a number that can simply be ignored.

When most people hear about men being raped, it’s assumed to be in a prison situation (“Don’t drop the soap!”). However, men are believed to make up half of domestic abuse victims, with intimate partner sexual assault included in this statistic. It is estimated that only ten percent of sexual assault is reported when the victim is male. If a man is sexually assaulted, it is likely he would be reluctant to seek help, especially if the perpetrator is female. Men in our culture are taught they are unable to become a victim of sexual assault. It’s never easy for an assault victim to admit they’ve been taken advantage of, but men are culturally expected to be the aggressor–when they’re not, it can trigger strong feelings of shame and a loss of identity, and can lead to them refusing to seek help.

Sexual assault can (and most likely will) have a profound aspect on any individual. It is damaging in any situation to overlook these impacts when the victim is female, but it is equally damaging to overlook these impacts in a male victim, as well as to ignore the unique impacts faced by a male victim. Heterosexual males often have to cope with a feeling that they’re losing their identity, or that the assault will “make them gay.” In homosexual rape victims, they may see the rape as a punishment for their sexual orientation, or see it as a result of their sexual orientation, and may withdraw from their support network and community.

I am by no means saying that violence and assaults against women aren’t absolutely prevalent. I am simply trying to bring to light the fact that feminism largely ignores the fact that men can also be victims of assault–and that women can also be the perpetrators. The current feminist environment has a tendency to put women up on a pedestal, and we forget that men really aren’t evil and aggressive by nature. Male assault victims are people just as female assault victims are.

(((side note: this is by far one of the most prosaic pieces I’ve ever written, and I really hope I can prompt some discussion. Please leave your two cents down in the comments–I really want to know what others’ opinions are on this)))

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10 comments

  1. I’m impressed to see you write this. I know someone who was forced to penetrate a woman several times over a year or two when he was about 5 or 6 years old. The experience was so brutal to him that he repressed it for 47 years. For most of his life, he didn’t understand why he froze up (in reality, he experienced post traumatic stress), whenever a woman expressed sexual interest in him. He doesn’t like to be touched. He never really dated and didn’t lose his virginity until he was about 23 years old, although he isn’t a bad looking man. He is one to work out, as if he feels a need to protect himself at all times. Everyone thinks he is difficult to get to know – he doesn’t let people too close. Regardless, he has always seemed to love women and has been married for 24 years.

    You have to realize that when a person, whether a man or woman, is raped and is experiencing post traumatic stress, they won’t want to report the incident. They are also likely to repress the memory – to just utterly and completely try to forget about it. So, I’m sure that the forced to penetrate situations, particularly of boys, will never account for everyone.

    Also know that the woman who assaulted him was a Cub Scout Den Mother and that he remembers that she also used boys in the ‘pack’. She was also confronted about it by one of the boy’s fathers. But, this was in the 60’s and all that was done was the boys quit coming to meetings. The idea was, a woman can’t really hurt a boy, if she has ‘sex’ with him, so there would be no reason to pursue it. Not only that, the definition of rape at the time was the use of a penis to penetrate someone, so she wouldn’t have been charged with rape.

    Finally, know that female pedophiles have been known to be doctors, nurses, day care workers, teacher’s aids and, as I mentioned above, Cub Scout Den Mothers. Don’t be sexist when you interview the people who are going to take care of your child. Always keep your eyes open and be sensitive to how your child feels about any adult – man or woman.

    Thanks!

    1. Just as I’m not trying to say all men are evil, I’m certainly not trying to say all women are evil either. However, all men and all women are, quite simply, HUMAN. And human beings, regardless of gender or sex, have an ability to do harm or good to other humans.

      Rape, by many, is not considered to be rape unless it is a violent assault, usually involving some sort of penetration and almost always causing some sort of pain. I’m not saying forced-to-penetrate situations are common–but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen, and just because a victim is from a small demographic doesn’t mean they deserve to be ignored.

      Thank you for sharing this story–it was really interesting and I’m always eager to read actual stories instead of just statistics. I wish you and your friend all the best. Thank you for your comment!

  2. However, men are believed to make up half of domestic abuse victims, […]

    Using statistics from AVFM is not particularly useful if one wishes to describe reality.

    This may be a place to start with, regarding the use of statistics.

    I am simply trying to bring to light the fact that feminism largely ignores the fact that men can also be victims of assault–and that women can also be the perpetrators.

    Consider the idea of triage in medical situations. Do you deal with the gunshot wound to the chest first or the broken finger? Similar applications to female and male victimization rates and causes.

    The current feminist environment has a tendency to put women up on a pedestal,

    I’m curious as to which pedestal you are referring to? The one where we make less for equal work? The one where we embrace fear as a way of life? The pedestal of having others think they are entitled to our personal space?

    and we forget that men really aren’t evil and aggressive by nature.

    They are just taught to be that way via the patriarchal standards of society.

    1. “Consider the idea of triage in medical situations. Do you deal with the gunshot wound to the chest first or the broken finger? Similar applications to female and male victimization rates and causes. ”

      Obviously, as a society, we need to put our resources where they are most needed. Since women are victimized more frequently, then we should put most of our efforts into fixing the conditions that lead to that.

      However, the article wasn’t about how much effort we should put into fixing rape issues for men and the intent of your statement isn’t exactly clear. The essay was about bringing forced to penetrate issues to people’s attention, which she did well. If you meant to belittle the problem by saying that the numbers of men being forced to penetrate women aren’t as great, so we shouldn’t worry about it so much, then you’re actually supporting rape culture – that’s what men who hear about this situation say. It has the effect of stifling victims, just as women who have been raped have been silenced and bullied by the ‘justice system’ and society in general. You support it when dealing with men, then you covertly support it for women. I hope that wasn’t your intention.

      1. (((I’m going to give The Arbourist some time to respond to this comment, since I really don’t want to interrupt the conversation. If they don’t respond in a few days then I’ll add my own two cents as well)))

      2. @georgefinnegan

        If you meant to belittle the problem by saying that the numbers of men being forced to penetrate women aren’t as great,

        What I was referring to was the use of AVFM’s particular bend on statistical information to base an argument on.

        so we shouldn’t worry about it so much, then you’re actually supporting rape culture

        Not “worrying” versus prioritizing have two very different connotations. I suggest you consider the charitable interpretation rather than the worse case scenario you put forward.

        You support it when dealing with men,

        You mean the system that shames rape victims from square one? From the front line officers all the way down the line to the Crown prosecutors?

        Err, no.

        I hope that wasn’t your intention.

        Rather than speculating, and insinuating the worst case, you might simply ask your questions directly and I’ll do my best to answer them.

  3. You’ve hit the nail on the head yet again, Sophia.

    It’s become sadly common in many current waves of feminism and social thought to believe it to be right – morally justified, even – for women to become the aggressors and oppressors of the long-privileged males. Many flavors of feminism have only replaced patriarchy with matriarchy.

    And of course, this is not everyone. But it is a bit horrifyingly prevalent in our current culture. Women’s movement, men’s movement, how about the everybody-get-the-f*ck-along movement?

    Have you seen the documentary “Tough Guise”? If you haven’t I highly recommend it. Talks about the male side of attitude and body-shaming, and the “idealized masculine” in our culture.

    1. There was this one guest poster on Womanist Musings who said something to the effect of “In my ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.” When I read that little statement, it was the first time I had ever heard anything like it. And it really opened my eyes.

      Many (certainly not all, but many) women have come to believe that due to our oppression, both current and historical, we deserve to become the oppressors. A taste of men’s own medicine, so to speak. But hate is hate no matter what and despising men isn’t any better than despising women–and, in my opinion, is no less damaging.

      Hahahahaha, I rather like the idea of the everybody-get-the-fuck-along movement. Just the right touch of sassiness 😉 I have not seen the documentary but I’ll make a point of looking for it now. Is it on Netflix, by any chance?

      1. “In my ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.”

        I’m going to have to remember that. That is a pretty powerful perspective shift.

        And it’s not on Netflix, but you can find it if you google it. While some of his facts are suspect, his bigger picture is sometimes very eye-opening – things like aggressive sports culture and G.I. Joe action figures with a super biceps and mega abs contributing to a skewed ideal of masculinity in our culture.

      2. Many (certainly not all, but many) women have come to believe that due to our oppression, both current and historical, we deserve to become the oppressors.

        Which branch of feminism supports becoming the oppressor class?

        I’m curious as feminism is about dismantling the structures within society that *create* oppression in the first place.

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