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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.



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.
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.
Apr. 23rd, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)
Low risk, high reward crime.
Apr. 29th, 2008 09:47 am (UTC)
Its also the fact that one sexual offender is likely to rape so many people. I cant remember the specific number, but it was a scary one. I was talked out of going to court because I was told that if I went to court, the man who raped me would get up to 8 years in prison, but would rape even more people then if I agreed to the plea bargain in which he would only be in jail for 11 months in total, but be forced to take classes about being a rapist-raping people-etc, and statistically would rape less people. Of course, I didn't want him to rape anyone else, so I went with the plea bargain. I had to choose between locking him up for a few years and feeling responsible for the 50 other people he would rape, or letting him be free on the off chance that he would rape a lot less people. I was 13. It took a year to find him, and another 8 months to prepare for court and decide what to do. I'm not ashamed to admit that part of my reasoning for not going to court was the fact that I was scared almost beyond reason about seeing him again. It was one of the worst times in my life.

Blah, sorry for ranting, didn't mean to.
Apr. 29th, 2008 12:01 pm (UTC)
Do you mind if I ask who told you that he would rape fewer people if you plea bargained? That sounds like an incredibly hard choice for anyone to make, let alone a 13-year-old. And it definitely makes sense that you'd be scared to see him again, not to mention the prospect of reliving everything in court in front of so many people.

Please don't feel that you need to apologize for sharing this. It's a far cry from a rant.
May. 1st, 2008 04:00 am (UTC)
I don't mind at all, but I think I explained wrong; the plea bargain was for less jail time and a bunch of classes, while if I went to court against him, he would likely just go to jail for a few years. The prosecutor and child's rights people that I talked to about my 'options' pulled out a large folder of statistical information about how rapists who do a certain amount of jail time are likely to rape so-and-so many other people. Also, statistically, rapists that are forced to take these 'classes' are most likely to not rape again, or not rape many people. Does that make any sense? It was quite a few years ago, and I can't recall specific names and such.
Apr. 30th, 2008 08:41 pm (UTC)
The other issue is that above and beyond all the cases where the law fails, rape is inherently a very difficult crime to prosecute.

Many cases fall into "She-said-He-said", which _should_ basically be void. It really, really sucks, but sometimes there isn't anything one can legally do.
Apr. 30th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
That's the problem with the current system. "She said" part should be sufficient -- ie, the current system ASSUMES consent and it falls to the victim to prove that consent was NOT given, which is backwards and inherently difficult to prove. Now if we assume that consent is NOT given as a default, then it falls to the rapist to prove that he had this consent, and in the absense of such proof victim's testimony should be sufficient. That would be a legal system that does not condone rape.
Apr. 30th, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
That most certainly is not a problem with the current system.

Do you seriously mean to say that we should give precedence to one voice over another based upon its gender? If you accept equality between genders, you cannot. If we should accept whoever claims first, there is nothing to stop a racist from claiming rape and being safe from any possible accusation in the future.

If we accept the victim's claim at face value, a counterclaim is perfectly reasonable. Why can't the accused claim that they were raped instead?

Perhaps written consent should be given, yes - but when it is not present, who do we assume is guilty? I don't feel that we can assume either way.
Apr. 30th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
Our justice system is theoretically based on the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty. (With varying degrees of "proof" depending on the circumstances.) Personally, I think that's probably a good thing.

But rape is the only crime I can think of where the way the system works is based on the assumption that the defendant is a liar until proven honest.

When a man goes to court to press charges against a mugger, we don't say to him, "Prove you were mugged." We do say "Prove that this is the man who mugged you."

With rape, we basically assume, "You weren't really mugged. Unless you can prove otherwise, we're going to assume you made a charitable donation to this kind man with the revolver, and now you've changed your mind and are trying to ruin his reputation."
Apr. 30th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
You've phrased it very nicely.

Stranger rape seems to be fairly similar to the mugging situation, so I think we're nominally fine there. For situations where consent is at stake, things are ... uck. Considering that some (most, I should fervently hope) sex is consentual, how do we deal with it?

I can't think off the top of my head how I could reformulate things so as to improve the situation.. Any suggestions?
Apr. 30th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
1) Male voice is privileged by the current system, since the victim of a rape is often put in a defensive position and her credibility is habitually attacked.

2) Considering that it is men who rape women and not the other way around, the counterclaim argument does not hold water.

3) Women's right to walk around unraped should supercede male inconvenience.
Apr. 30th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
1) Significant problem which should be undermined. The current practice of attacking the credibility and cross-examining is problematic. The solution is to promote equality of voice, is it not?

2) If you are merely interested in furthering women's power, rather than seeking equality, we will necessarily be opposed to each other's aims.

3) True. Conviction is not mere inconvenience however. Also, if we started having convictions in this manner, it would discredit the stories of true victims as rapists could always say that they were only convicted because of their gender, not because of their actions. The right to have any male convicted on their say-so is, however, nonexistent. Are you really saying that you want to go back to the old system of one gender having near-complete power over the other (albeit with the genders reversed)? It used to be that the male's story was always believed without question. Reversing this situation improves nothing.

A male's right not to be convicted based upon a claim alone does supercede the right of females to have them convicted based upon a claim. The key is that _we cannot know_ who is telling the truth in "She-said-He-said" situations. Therefore, we cannot convict. I'm not saying that we should assume She is lying - otherwise we would automatically convict her of perjury. We shouldn't assume He is lying either - same deal, except with the added on rape conviction. We simply must say that we cannot know.

I do not know how to improve the situation on a legal basis. What I do know is that having insta-convictions based upon giving complete credence to one person's claims over another's will only make things worse.
May. 1st, 2008 12:27 am (UTC)
Once more: talking of equality in this context is not helpful, because it is MEN who rape WOMEN, not the other way around. It's not a symmetrical situation.

As far as not assuming that every woman consents to have sex with every man (as in the current legislation which assumes consent as a default): it is very simple. If a woman claims that sex was not consensual AND a man cannot provide evidence that consent was given (such as a written note) than it was rape. End of story. The only burden it places on the man in this situation is obtaining consent -- hence 'inconvenience' as used by me. I found it troubling that you immediately jumped to the assumption that such situation would lead to false convictions.
May. 1st, 2008 04:57 am (UTC)
I think the problem here is that you are making it sound very much like you want any man accused of rape to be assumed "Guilty until proven innocent", and convicted on the spot.

I would like to think what you were trying to say is more like what Jim said; that a woman who makes the accusation is now automatically assumed to be lying, or treated as if she were lying, and this is a major problem, and flat wrong. Because everyone here would agree.

I have said before that if a woman tells me she thinks she was raped, I would take her at her word. However, the context in which I meant that was as to whether to help her deal with the trauma, face up to a doctor's examination, and get the courage to take it to court.

Once it hits the court, the actual ideal is not to privilege her words, or his, but the objective facts. He raped her, and she can successfully identify him. He claims an alibi or an alternate circumstance. The jury weighs the evidence. They do not demonize the woman, and assume she is telling the truth. But neither do they convict him instantly merely on the basis that he is taken to court.

On a side issue:

I don't remember ever giving written consent to sex. I've had a fair bit of consensual sex. I'd like to continue to have the freedom to do so without having to write my male partners a note every time. (And clearly, my female partners would be off the hook?) The number of issues of love and trust that would be warped by this requirement just boggle my mind.
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