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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.



( 268 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 22nd, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
I forgot to mention this in my comment:


I'm pleased that they exist.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
And all of this includes rape within marriage, which a lot of people dismiss. They think that just because you're married, there's no such thing as sexual abuse.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
I've been reading a lot of stuff lately involving stupid, offensive men being stupid and offensive and downright criminal wrt issues involving women and abortion and sexuality and such, so to be pointed here and so vividly reminded that there are men who get it, who are continuing to try and understand, who are as angry as I am about how things are, was really nice. It doesn't make anything you say truer because you're a guy, or any more powerful, and it's not anything many women haven't said, but right this moment, it was good to hear it from a guy.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Apr. 23rd, 2008 12:13 am (UTC)
Also thanks. Very much so.
Apr. 23rd, 2008 03:31 am (UTC)
she got raped
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.

Right. Just like "She got pregnant." Or even better, "She went and got herself pregnant."
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 23rd, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
I don't know if you follow the same blog-circle as I do, but it does seem like there was an awful lot of stupid shit coming up in certain places almost immediately after I posted this...
Apr. 23rd, 2008 04:11 am (UTC)
Well. I'm just going to put it out there.

My molestor/rapist did her double damage over the course of a year. She had me convinced they put little kids directly in jail for such indiscretions. So I said nothing. (I can only wonder what was done to HER before we met.)

My rapist did his damage in less than an hour, with a spiked drink and a knife, then took me upstairs to meet his mother, who made it quite clear that girls who spent first dates alone in basements with boys were usually whores who lied about things, and would I like gravy on my meatloaf? So I said nothing.

I was at a casual girl's night out last year, with my mother, a few relatives, and a few friends. And as I looked around, I realized that out of us ten women, there were only two who hadn't had sex forced on us. Eight out of ten women in one room. Pretty sick.

I've always seen rape as a human chain, learned and passed on, passed on and learned. Only when every link is able to sit up and say No matter what has me in this mindset, this chain breaks right here will this horror stop. But that would mean every man or victim finally cares for someone else more than themselves at any given time, and I don't see that happening. Ever. The human way is to be arrogant, selfish, and rationalize in our minds why something is "okay" for the moment.

Because of places like RAINN, there is somewhere to heal.

Because of heroes who cry foul and risk telling it like it is--like our Jim--there is comfort and hope.
Apr. 23rd, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)
I'm a survivor.

And I thank you for your post.
Apr. 23rd, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing this.
Apr. 23rd, 2008 04:53 pm (UTC)
I nearly cried when I read your post, because it's the first time I've heard a man, just a regular guy who didn't have a camera on his face, say something else about rape except "all women are liars and most rape cases are made up".
Apr. 23rd, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
That's incredibly sad. I do know there are other guys out there who take rape seriously, and who do a lot of work to support survivors and educate other men. But it's nowhere near enough...
(no subject) - szeretni - Apr. 23rd, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC)
Great post. Thank you.
Apr. 23rd, 2008 06:47 pm (UTC)
This is a lot of the reason I want to get involved in things like MARS on my campus when I'm a little more comfortable in my skin. It's necessary and crucial for men to address the issue, because otherwise the culture won't change.

I find myself not really knowing what else to say here other than that I agree with you on so much of this, it scares me that there are people who don't.
Apr. 23rd, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
Wow. Thank you so much for this commentary.

What you said about the language ("someone raped her...") really struck a chord with me. I don't think a lot of people realize just how much the language, and even the word 'rape' is downplayed in our society. We're more likely to say "she was attacked" than to ever say "she was raped" or the much more accurate "someone raped her." People have a hard time admitting that it really is rape, and that's a horrible reality. I think it shows just how much so many of us have our heads in the sand. If it's not rape, then it must not be so bad, right? *rolls eyes* It's such a slippery slope from asking to feel someone's breasts to "attacking" them, wherein there seems to be no thought to the fact that from the first moment it's sexual assault.

Thanks again for the food for thought.
Apr. 23rd, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)
So, finally commenting. So much kerfluffle I'm not really getting any work done, anyway.

But I don't really know where to begin.

I've had so many different coping mechanisms over time to the things I experienced. In school it was distance and academic objectivity. So I did a TON of work on rape and intimate violence without ever really acknowledging that the work was about myself.

Over the past couple of years my coping skills declined, and many of my resources turned out to be pretty bad for me.

Now, that things are getting better and I'm acknowledging and actively working on the damage, it's much harder for me to be objective and academic.

Which is all a long way of saying "Hey! A long time ago I would have had something really thoughtful to say about your post, but since I'm sitting here all teary and shakey, I guess I'll just say thanks."

And on "She was Raped."--the good thing about the power of language is that you can teach around it. It's malleable. See here:

Apr. 23rd, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
Can I ask who Puppy is?

One of the things I've seen, and actually wrote about, is that coping mechanisms which are effective in one environment don't work as well when that environment changes. No real point there ... except I guess to say that you're not alone in what you're describing.

Sorry I'm not more articulate here. I'm starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the response to this one myself.
(no subject) - pnkrokhockeymom - Apr. 24th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 24th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
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( 268 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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