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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

lenora_rose
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.
squirrel_monkey
May. 1st, 2008 05:17 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."

Just to make it clear, I am talking about a situation where it is established that sex took place, and the only unresolved issue is consent. So, when a woman says that she did not give consent, I am inclined to believe her, yes. Notice also that we are talking about the current legal system which practically encourages rape by forcing the victim to prove that she did not give consent (ie, the default being that she DID consent). I am simply suggesting reversing the situation -- this way, if a woman says that she was raped, the legal system ought to assume that she is telling the truth.

"But neither do they convict him instantly merely on the basis that he is taken to court."

I did not suggest that. I suggested that the burden is on him to prove that consent was given -- as in case of mugging, as Jim suggested, where we do not make the victim prove that she did not voluntarily give the assailant her wallet and car. Rather, if he makes such a claim, the burden of proof is on him, and we privilege the victim's testimony.

"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 you are of course free to do so. Unless your male partner suspects that you are a liar who will falsely accuse him of rape; in this case, it is prudent for him to ask for such a note -- which raises an entirely different issue of trust and whether men should be having sex with women who (they suspect) might make false accusations. As I said, it seems a minor inconvenience compared to the number of women who are victimized with no legal recourse or whose rapists were let go because victim's character was called into question.
lenora_rose
May. 1st, 2008 06:19 am (UTC)
For the first series of comments, it sounds like, as I thought, everyone in this thread was in violent agreement, and it's the phrasings getting in the way and causing people to think otherwise.

But:

And you are of course free to do so. Unless your male partner suspects that you are a liar who will falsely accuse him of rape; in this case, it is prudent for him to ask for such a note -- which raises an entirely different issue of trust and whether men should be having sex with women who (they suspect) might make false accusations. As I said, it seems a minor inconvenience compared to the number of women who are victimized with no legal recourse or whose rapists were let go because victim's character was called into question.

Let's reread your first sentence:

I am free not to give him what he wants *unless* he doesn't trust me.... ?

Now, I KNOW that isn't what you meant.


If the person who wishes to have sex with me thinks I might be a liar who will commit a false accusation and airs this thought (Which he would have to to be asking me for a note, it's not a request anyone in real-world transactions would make out of the blue and without an explanation), there is no way I'm giving consent.

And I do wonder at the men who would consider having sex with someone they trusted so little. As stated by someone else, the implication seems to be that what they're really thinking is that they *want* to have "sex" with that woman whether she consents or not, and the only thing stopping them from committing actual rape is that fear of a "false" accusation. (Which would then not be false, but that particular logical leap seems to get missed.)

Yes, a man having to ask for such a note would be a minor inconvenience compared to a woman who is being accused of lying or being a slut or otherwise getting slandered. But to assume that only written consent is sufficient proof of innocence on the man's part really does go too far over the line into "Guilty until proven innocent."

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