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Thoughts on Men and Rape

A week or two back, I mentioned wanting to write about sexual assault awareness month. Something strange happened with that post. Almost immediately, a handful of comments trickled in saying, in essence, "You're a good man for doing this, Jim."

My ego enjoys a compliment as much as anyone else's, and I'm not trying to critize the people who offered them. But ... I didn't actually do anything. I posted a phone number and mentioned I'd be writing something. Eventually.

The more I think about it, the more it pisses me off. How pathetic is it that, in our culture, the only thing you have to do to be a good guy is say, "Hey, one of these days I'll write something about rape." Even that sort of vague, empty comment about rape is enough to make you stand out. Because that's already more than most guys seem willing to say or do.

I noticed the same thing when I worked with Take Back the Night years ago. Practically all I had to do was show up, and I was some sort of freaking hero.

Because rape is a women's issue. A woman's odds of being raped are around 1 in 3 or 1 in 4, if you compile the various studies and statistics. A man's odds are significantly less. Maybe 1 in 7? 1 in 10? Even so, we don't talk about that (except to joke about dropping the soap in prison). So let the women worry about it. Not our problem.

No, wait. That's not entirely accurate. Now that I think about it, nearly every time I went to talk to a group of men about rape issues, whether it was a fraternity or a dormatory gathering, the men were worried about rape. Not about their girlfriends or sisters or mothers or friends being raped, of course. No, they wanted to know what they should do if a girl lied about a rape in order to punish them. Because every one of them knew a friend of a friend whose cousin's buddy had been falsely accused of rape, so that's what we really needed to worry about.

In my role as an advocate and educator, I had to behave professionally and deal with those questions. Here on my blog? I'm just going to come out and offer those folks a big ol' cup of STFU.

Don't misunderstand me. False accusations of rape do happen. I watched one play out in the local paper here years ago. And believe me, the justice system went after that accuser for daring to commit such a heinous crime against a man.

I don't personally know anyone who's been falsely accused of rape. The people I know personally who've been raped? I've lost count. Mostly women, but I'm friends with some male survivors as well. People I care about. People I love.

And you know what the funny thing is? In almost every single case, the one who raped them was a guy. Not 100%, but up there in the ninety-plus percent.

But of course, that's not our problem. So long as none of those girls try to punish us by playing the rape card, we've got nothing to worry about. Besides, I'm no rapist, so what more do you want? Teach the girls not to get drunk or walk alone or lead guys on, and they'll be fine.

I love that logic. I never raped anyone, so it's not my problem, and I don't have to worry about it. But have you ever wondered why such an overwhelming majority of rapists are men? Ever wonder where guys get the idea they're allowed to do that to another human being? I'll give you a hint. Step one in learning to rape? Learn to see your victim as a thing, rather than a person.

But like I said, none of this is our problem as guys. None of us have ever contributed to the idea that women are objects, things to be ogled and grabbed and used. None of us have ever laughed along with the demeaning jokes, or watched one of our buddies work to get a girl drunk in order to get her into bed. None of us have made excuses for a man who grabs a woman's breast without permission. Oh, no. None of us have done a damn thing.

Forgive me if I sound a little bitter. Let's just say that after you sit there in a closed room with one of your best friends who's screaming because she just bumped into her rapist a few minutes ago, it becomes harder to worry about the guys feeling picked on because I was so rude as to suggest maybe this is our problem too.

---

Two closing thoughts that didn't really fit into my post, but are important to mention anyway.

1. Ever notice how often we talk about how someone was raped? When was the last time you heard it phrased, "Someone raped her." Because of course, the latter construction puts the responsibility on the rapist. It isn't something that just happens. It's something a person chose to do.

2. Rapists choose to rape. Nothing you do -- nothing you wear, nothing you drink, nothing you say -- nothing makes that choice for them. If someone raped you, it wasn't your fault. End of story.

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Comments

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queenoftheskies
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
controuble
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
To your closing point #1: The phrase "she was raped" should be made illegal and replaced with your phrase. That just might get the point across about WHO is at fault in these cases.
jimhines
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
It's amazing how firmly that phrase is ingrained. When I wrote point #2 immediately after #1, I still automatically started to write it the other way.
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daydreammuse
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
Really in depth with the problem. People should be more interested in this angle. It's a sickening act, whole fault lies in society as a whole and not well one gender, which is the victim. Makes no sense to me.
rhienelleth
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
Great post. There are so many misconceptions about rape among both men and women. I know you're not involved in the world of fic much, but there is a disturbing trend among a certain sub-genre, basically rape fic, which depicts the act in a completely unrealistic, fantastically romanticized and WRONG way. I wrote a lengthy (admittedly angry) post about it once, and some of the comments that post generated I still find unbelievable. And most of those commenters were women.
arielstarshadow
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
I think the real key in understanding those fantasies is that while they have all the earmarks of rape, I don't think that's really what they are.

Why do I say that?

Because I've been a victim, and I still have what would be classified as rape fic.

I think that particular type of story feeds into the desire of some women for aggressiveness and submissiveness. In other words (and this is NOT a good thing by any means), No doesn't really mean No in these stories.

Again, not a good thing because then you send mixed messages to men. The BDSM community handles it better in that it's consensual and there's always a safeword.
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michaeldthomas
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
Jim,

I think that people would have called anybody who put this out there on their blog a good person, male or female. Yes, you’re no more a hero than I am for my work with my daughter and other children with disabilities. Still, I’m glad that you’re doing this because it’s very important for this information to get out there. I’ve known many survivors and my daughter belongs to one of the biggest at risk groups for sexual assault. I agree, though, that it’s disheartening when people slap you on the back as a man for just doing the things that you’re supposed to do. Maybe in the future it will seem like less of an oddity. I hope so.

By the way, the number for men that I heard this morning is 1 in 6.

Take care,
Michael

jimhines
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
"...it’s disheartening when people slap you on the back as a man for just doing the things that you’re supposed to do."

Exactly. Meeting some minimal baseline for civilized behavior isn't really grounds for congratulations and celebration, ya know?
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janni
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
I think it's actually part of a larger issue, one where society does not expect men to act like compassionate, decent human beings, so any time someone does, folks are blown away. I've watched guys be praised through the roof for caring for their small children (while it's taken for granted their wives will do this) or helping with child care in any way, too. It's like too many folks don't have the expectation that men should act decently, and that decent behavior should be the rule, not some extraordinary exception.

Which drives me nuts. Because I know too many decent guys to believe this isn't the way the world ought to just work, and every time someone assumes a decent guy is unusual, the give all the guys who aren't so decent a "this is how guys are" excuse for it.

Edited at 2008-04-21 04:05 pm (UTC)
jimhines
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
"every time someone assumes a decent guy is unusual, they give all the guys who aren't so decent a "this is how guys are" excuse for it."

YES!
tltrent
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Mr. Jim--you just really don't know how much this* means to me. I've been contemplating a post and this gives me impetus. The silence is so very hard to break.

*This meaning you, your work, your willingness to speak out.
wishwords
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
Ever since you posted that you were going to talk about rape, I've been thinking about it from the woman's side. I love what you wrote here and would like to link to it in my post on the subject.
silverrose
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
I don't remember if I left a comment, but I thought about it. The observation that (as near as I can recall) it's treated as women's responsibility to protect ourselves against rather than men's responsibility not to rape anyone was more striking than you may realize. The culture we live in ingrains us with a certain perspective, and seeing the obvious in print really did hit a chord with me, and probably many others. In other words, you did more than say you'd write something soon. You made a profound point.
phyrbyrd
May. 1st, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
And yet in the country I live in it's illegal to be armed. No mace, no nothing - your attacker can sue you for injuring him. How fucked up is that?
unwoman
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
Seriously though, you are a good man.
tsubaki_ny
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:50 pm (UTC)
What unwoman said.
cat_mcdougall
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
Also; I'd like to point something out:

Sometimes, it's not the guy who got the girl drunk in a bar, or the overly aggressive flirter, or the jerkwad on the corner. It's not always the boyfriend/girlfriend/friend with benefits.

Sometimes... it's the person in whom you've put the absolute most trust. Sometimes, it's the person to whom you have committed your life to.

"She agreed by marrying me." Probably one of the stupidest reasons I've ever heard for rape, and unfortunately, sometimes, the law buys it.

But if she says no, if she (or he, to be fair) cries and pleads and screams at you no and begs you to not do this to her, even if she shares your last name, it is still rape.

That marriage license is not a simple contract for a steady diet of sex. She said 'no', it is still rape. That ring on her finger is not a collar.

My husband raped me. And the law did nothing. Because he was my husband.

Rape is a human issue, not a man or woman one.
xnamkrad
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
Thankfully the law was changed here, and there have been convictions for such rapes.
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xnamkrad
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
"nothing you wear, nothing you drink, nothing you say" It always angered me to hear that about a rape victim. If you walked down the road, drunk, with your wallet hanging out and it was stolen, and the thief was caught, the defence would never be "but you were asking for it because you were drunk".

Very good article.
pierceheart
Apr. 22nd, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
On some things, they do say that.
However, smart people don't say that about crimes against persons, only crimes against property.
aeditimi
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
Now *that* earns you a hearty "you're a good guy, jim."

I myself am not a rape survivor, but on behalf of my numerous friends, both male and female, who were raped by men (all of the ones I know), thank you. Thank you for addressing the fears-- the real ones and the imagined ones. And thank you for making sure to state point 2. As a mom of a girl, I especially appreciate that one.

One point that I think bears mentioning along those lines is that the choice for the survivor to press charges is often a horrifying one, because there often are so many inferences that (s)he did something to invite sexual contact and because the process of collecting evidence is so traumatizing. I hope we can find better ways to support survivors as they come forward or even if they choose not to do so. Rape counselors and crisis hotline volunteers are profoundly wonderful people, and we need more individuals to help in that area.
jimhines
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC)
That's definitely worth mentioning ... and then mentioning again and again until things chnage.

Have you seen The Rape of Mr. Smith? It does a pretty good job of showing what rape survivors go through in court.
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shveta_thakrar
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for posting this.

I know many guys who refused to watch Teeth because they don't rape, so why do they need to see that?

Also, not exactly on topic but still relevant, it makes me sad that this perception of women is so ingrained in our society that other women have it, too. I wince every time I hear a woman call another woman "slut," "whore," the "c" word, etc. Even better was when a woman friend was disappointed that her guy friend didn't get laid when he returned a stranger's (woman's) wallet. Um, what? Why did she owe him sex?!

Why is it okay for men to be sexy and enjoy sex but not for women?

/rant
anghara
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
Never been assaulted, never been violently attacked, never been remotely close to being raped - but I remember once, at University, what was I, maybe 19, they had this really strange guy who worked in the Chemistry department who had these weird wild glinting eyes and a smile that never quite reached them, and he was a BIG bruiser, let's just say he filled a doorway when he stood in one. And he liked to come up quietly and stand in one, for instance the door to the weighing room when a bunch of us were in there weighing up chemicals to make up stuff with, and just stand there and watch. Quietly. With those mad eyes.

There were a number of us in that room at any given time. Pert and pretty ones, heavier ones, girls who dressed dowdy and girls who played up their charms - and it *didn't matter*. We all stood there like rabbits under a cobra's gaze - we were trapped in that room, there was a very large man with nothing nice on his mind between us and freedom, and he was quite capable enough of enforcing his wishes if he so chose because none of us were capable of wrestling him away. Yes, there was usually safety in numbers - three or four of us to one of him - but you know what? This was visceral. Nobody thought about the others. He might have been indiscriminate about watching all of us but every one of us felt as though she was alone and utterly helpless.

No, he never followed through. He would stand there and watch and then he would pad away into whatever den he worked in and you wouldn't see him again for days. But he was there and he was a menace and he radiated something the instant response to which was mindless fear. And you know - there was no complaint that could be laid. He never DID anything. He worked there, he was permitted to be there, and so long as he DID do nothing he could have his little reign of terror unimpeded.

I guess we were lucky because all we had to deal with was a perv who got off on the look of fear in young women's eyes when they looked on him. But the real terror behind this was that it wouldn't have taken much for it to escalate. Perhaps as little as him finding ONE girl in the weighing room instead of three.

This is a long and rambling and roundabout way of saying thank you for that post. It needed to be said.

Especially those last two points.
green_knight
Apr. 22nd, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
Chemistry department does not sound helpless to me. I can put myself in your position, but four girls with chemicals who are willing to fight for their lives *does* sound like a match for him. Even one would have a chance, as long as she was willing to attack. It doesn't always work, but being helpless and hoping he won't see you *definitely* doesn't work.
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catrambo
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Jim.
squirrel_monkey
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
Just to add to your post (with which I agree): if you consider how few rapes are actually prosecuted and result in conviction, is it any wonder that men get the idea that they are allowed to rape? The justice system condones it, for crying out loud.
jimhines
Apr. 21st, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
Yup. When I talked to men, I found myself trying very hard to avoid any of the stats on how few rapes are prosecuted, and how few of those result in convictions. It's depressing and infuriating and completely screwed up. Given the way our system works right now, I can understand and respect why someone might choose not to file charges.
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ellameena
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
I, too, have heard of false accusations of rape, but only know of one real-world example. (The accuser spent several months in jail on one million dollars bond before he was exonerated in court based on surveillance camera evidence.) My feeling about it is that if a man is worried that he might have consensual sex with a woman, and that she might later accuse him of rape, then he shouldn't be having sex with her. Anyone who feels anxious on that subject should err on the side of NOT having sex. That is a totally and completely easy fix, and therefore not worth talking about much. Watch: "I'm worried my girlfriend will falsely accuse me of raping her." "Okay, don't have sex with your girlfriend until you have developed a greater degree of mutual trust." And here's another one: "I am worried that I might have sex with a drunk woman at a party, and she will later accuse me of rape." "Okay, valid concern. Here's some advice. Do not have sex with women who are intoxicated. They are not capable of complete consent. Get her phone number and call her when she is sober." It makes me kind of angry, too, that these guys are not able to come to this conclusion on their own. Idjits.
j_cheney
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
I agree...

I would think that if they're worried that they might later be accused, then:
1) They probably don't know the other person well enough for the sex to be safe sex anyway,
2) There's a trust issue there that should clearly preclude something as intimate as sex.
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lindaabdavis
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC)
I almost didn't comment because I don't even know where to begin. It is such a huge problem in society and it totally gets swept under the rug because most of the good men I know don't know where to start with it either. They don't want rape to happen, but neither do they want false accusations.

The first boy I ever dated ended up having me kick him in the face to get him off of me. No, I didn't tell my parents (who knew him) because I felt stupid for putting myself in that position. I should have told, but I just wanted it over. I now realize I didn't do my part by making it public and having him account for his actions (stopped short as they were), but I try to cut myself a break for being 16.

My daughter is now almost 16, and I hope that I've counseled her on how to deal with these things more effectively. And if I had a son, he would also be counseled on such. Most people now are taught what to do in a random and violent attack but it's a harder thing to tell about when your attacker is part of your normal life. The attackers count on that, on your fear of being discounted or even you being put to blame for allowing him the opportunity. They know you just want it to be over.

And I believe the victim's attitudes are a reflection of society's attitudes, so we as a nation need to let the victims know that we are behind them, not the rapist. There is no excuse for rape. You are entirely correct, Jim. It is a choice. Thanks for the opporunity to comment.
jimhines
Apr. 22nd, 2008 12:59 am (UTC)
An awful lot of the prevention efforts out there seem to be aimed at stranger rape, but like you say, there's very little discussion of what to do when the attacker is someone you know, possibly even someone you love and trust ... which is the vast majority of rapes.

As for not wanting the false accusations? Well, yes. I don't want false accusations of murder, speeding, or jaywalking, either. But the false accusations of rape seem to be a whole other category of fear for guys, and it frustrates the hell out of me.

And thank *you* for commenting.
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brownkitty
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
There are a bunch of things I want to say here, many of them angry and counterproductive. A good many of them quickly head off into OT territory and are likely to cause flame wars, but the basic short version is "I think this is a symptom more than a problem in its own right."

How is the writing project going?
cluegirl
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
I followed a link from wishwords to get here, and like many others, I want to thank you for this post. Specifically because this is the first time I've seen anyone tackle the male bystander side of the issue.

I'd like to share a story from my own life which dovetails with your experience -- that is to say, the college kids unconcerned at the idea of someone they know and love being raped.

The third time I was raped, I was thirteen years old. I had a boyfriend at the time, who was no more sexually or intellectually savvy than any high school sophomore should be, but who had just as many hormones in play as any of his peers. With him, there had been a bit of making out, a bit of cuddling, and a lot of neurosis on my part, in response to my earlier (and very secret) abuses.

When the attack happened, a stranger broke into my house, and finding me alone, beat me until I stopped trying to fight him off, then he took what he wanted.

When I told my boyfriend about it, it was the end. He didn't know how to handle it. Didn't know what to say, what to think, how to look at my bruised and blackened face without wanting to punch something himself. We met once more, the summer it happened, and then he stopped calling me, stopped returning my calls, and began treating me like a stranger.

I'm old enough now, to understand that he was afraid and confused, but at the time, that abandonment completely underscored my feeling of having somehow been to blame for what had been done to me. That somehow I had been ruined by that man who broke into my house.

The facts are plainly put for those blissfully ignorant men; at least one out of every four women they personally know, has probably been assaulted sexually. If they knew the right way to ask, they would be appalled at how many survivors they know. You know this already, of course, being experienced with counseling, but I hope you'll indulge me a moment of preachy shouting "WORD!" from atop my distant soapbox.

I hope, as we humans continue to evolve, that fewer women have to learn to live their lives guarded against those who would turn them into objects of gratification. And yes, the first step is for everyone, male, female, survivor, and unknown, to become aware that rape is not just something that happens to other people they don't know.
jimhines
Apr. 22nd, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)
Preach away...

I saw a lot of relationships fall apart after a rape. It's exactly as you say: when a guy's girlfriend is raped, they don't know how to handle it. We're taught to be protective and to fix things, and now we've failed to protect someone we love and we're faced with something we can't fix. None of which excuses turning his back on you, or justifies walking away.

It really sucks how often the rapist walks away, while the victim/survivor continues to be punished.
nick_kaufmann
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:27 pm (UTC)
Great post, Jim. Thanks for taking the lead in what I'm sure will be a long and valuable discussion.
pats_quinade
Apr. 21st, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
Hell yes.
shadesong
Apr. 21st, 2008 06:20 pm (UTC)
Step one in learning to rape? Learn to see your victim as a thing, rather than a person.

About once a month,I stand up in front of a crowd in a college classroom or high school auditorium or quad and say, as a representative of my local rape crisis center, "Hi. My name is Shira, and I'm a rape survivor. This is what happened to me."

And I do it for many reasons. I do it because survivors need to know that it's okay to talk about it- every single time, people disclose tome afterwards. (Yes, including men.) I do it to remind people that rape exists.

But the single most important reason:

I put a face on it.

After listening to me talk, rape is no longer abstract. The girl is not a thing, a hole. The girl is a real live person who fidgets with her hands, who wears geeky t-shirts, whose voice still sometimes shakes, years later, when she confesses how terrified she was that her father might never find her body.

I write more about my reasons here.

But yeah. Rape is not a women's issue, it is a human issue. It's not about teaching women to fear, it's about teaching people about consent and violation. It's about teaching people - yes, mostly men,not always - not to rape.

I need to write a post for this month. I don't yet know what I'll say.
lkrobinson
Apr. 22nd, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you for what you do.
(no subject) - shadesong - Apr. 22nd, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
renesears
Apr. 21st, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you for saying this. This a great post, and your two closing points are worth reiterating.

The first step in addressing our rape society is stopping the objectification of women, and not holding men to a lower standard. But it's hard to figure out a good way to address these problems.

Thank you to everyone who has shared his or her story. People don't talk about this enough.
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Jim C. Hines
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