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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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( 280 comments — Leave a comment )
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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.
(no subject) - ellameena - Apr. 21st, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
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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?
(no subject) - rose_lemberg - Apr. 22nd, 2008 02:58 am (UTC) - Expand
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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!
(Deleted comment)
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.
(no subject) - cat_mcdougall - Apr. 21st, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - queenoftheskies - Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:08 am (UTC) - Expand
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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.
(no subject) - aeditimi - Apr. 21st, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - l_the_fangirl - Jun. 18th, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
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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