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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. 22nd, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
I'm confused. If we were to actually believe women who say they've been raped, then that would force men to rely on brute strength?

Nobody's saying any one gender has a lock on the way we behave. But if you look around, you'll see that in this particular category, one gender certainly has an astounding lead on misbehaving.

Personally, if a guy is so afraid that his partner will make a false accusation, but still insists on having sex with someone he doesn't trust, I can't say I have much sympathy for his fears.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
Personally, if a guy is so afraid that his partner will make a false accusation, but still insists on having sex with someone he doesn't trust, I can't say I have much sympathy for his fears.

...Isn't that like saying if a woman doesn't trust that man she just met at the bar but gets into the car with him anyway to drive her home, I can't say I have much sympathy for her fears? Or if a woman hangs out with, gets drunk with, and gets all make-outie with a guy she doesn't fully trust, then we shouldn't have any sympathy for her fears if he pulls something?

Goose and Gander, Jim.

Not saying either act is more right or more wrong, a crime, is a crime, is a crime and should be dealt with harshly. This coming from someone who supports forced castration on rapists, I can't say we should turn a blind eye toward false accusers.

I wanted to stay out of this thread...damn.

Apr. 22nd, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC)
Nobody here is saying we should turn a blind eye toward false accusations.

What I am saying is that I'm really fucking tired of men popping up in discussions of rape, not to talk about the fact that a quarter of the women out there are being raped (generally by men), but instead to switch the conversation over to the fact that every once in a while some guy might maybe possibly be falsely accused.

Read what I wrote. I have no sympathy for his fears. In the extremely rare situation that someone actually is falsely accused? Then yes, that's a crime that deserves to be punished, and I would sympathize with that. But this paranoia that insists on turning every conversation on rape into a "What about the poor men?" issue? No, not a hell of a lot of sympathy there.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
This is why I didn't want to get involved in this conversation. You're pretty passionate about this, and now I've pissed you off, wasn't what I was intending.

Keeping in mind that I like your journal and have no wish to get banned, I'm just going to respectfully back off.

Maybe we'll talk about this in person one day.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
No worries. I wasn't thinking about a banning, though I was considering freezing the thread if it went too far down this road.

Besides, as if I would dare stay mad at a man with a Cthulhu emblem for a userpic.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
No, if we were to prosecute based on a woman saying it with no evidence it would be bad. If we always went with whatever a woman, or a victim said it would be bad. The reason we have evidence based courts is because without them we'd have chaos.

It is my opinion that the lack of trust between the genders that this issue causes on both parts will force some men psychologically to just rely on their strength. That's why the protect instinct comes up when it is someone close to them. I think that false accusation are dangerous because it can ruin the man. The man's words are disbelieved because they are a man. Wouldn't that make you want to be violent?

I've read too much, pardon me. I'm trying to stop, but it makes it seem to me to be a deeper issue of trust. A human issue indeed, and not just an issue that either gender shoulders the responsibility for.

I am saying we should have sympathy for all of the victims and that the victimizers are the ones at fault. They are the ones who violate trust.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 03:01 pm (UTC)
How many men do you know who have been ruined by a false accusation of rape?

How many women do you know who have been raped by a man?

Yes, people who commit a crime are bad, and people who are victims of a crime should have our sympathy. But it astounds me that we have two crimes here, one of which is incredibly rare, the other of which happens incredibly often, and yet so many times when I have this discussion, people (usually men) insist that we should put most or all of our energy into that rare one.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
Of course we should not put most or all of our energy into the rare one. That's not the point at all. The point is that both are crimes and in both cases the victims should not be blamed.
Apr. 29th, 2008 10:03 am (UTC)
The fact that the media gathers up such rare events and makes everyone feel as though it's a common occurrence, as well as so many movies and books about 'men being ruined by false accusations', it's an ignorant fear but a fear none the less. I like the part in your post where you said that you are an educator and tried your best to answer their questions professionally. This, I feel, is the best response.

After allaying those ignorant fears, it's much easier to explain that their mothers, sisters, daughters and girlfriends most likely have been or will be irrevocably abused, and they need to accept that.

Sort of off topic, but there's also the other end of the spectrum, where I once was in a relationship with a man who, when he found out about my history, literally bawled on my shoulder and then couldn't date me because he couldn't deal with what I had been through.

(Bleh, I'm sorry for posting so much!)
Apr. 29th, 2008 11:03 am (UTC)
The fact that the media gathers up such rare events and makes everyone feel as though it's a common occurrence,

And combined with knowing how many men do rape and get away with it, makes it easier to doubt everyone who gets accussed. If that makes sense.

I.e. if we had a higher rate of conviction for rapists, there would be a lot less stigma attatched to the position of accused and never proven.
Apr. 29th, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC)
That does make sense. Thanks for sharing that. And if one assumes that the justice system actually works, then looks at the prosecution and conviction rates for rape (somewhere in the single digit percentage), you can almost understand why people would think so many of these accusations are unfounded or false.

When I was working with the rape/crisis hotline, I remember a general sense that the police were the enemy. Given the way some individual cops treated rape victims, I could understand the anger. (Threatening to press charges against the *victim* because he didn't believe she was telling the truth, for example.) But I really wish there was more cooperation and education between the two groups.


Jim C. Hines

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