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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

( 266 comments — Leave a comment )
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aic_weirdo
Apr. 23rd, 2008 08:52 pm (UTC)
It's really nice to see a man talk about this sanely instead of blaming women or giving the automatic reaction of "Rape is bad!" and pretend that it doesn't exist.

Great post, except for one thing (I don't know if this was intentional):

No, they wanted to know what they should do if a girl lied about a rape in order to punish them.

So long as none of those girls try to punish us by playing the rape card, we've got nothing to worry about.

Teach the girls not to get drunk or walk alone or lead guys on, and they'll be fine.

watched one of our buddies work to get a girl drunk in order to get her into bed.

Referring to a woman over maybe 16 or 18 as a "girl" is extremely insulting language, moreso than the example of using the passive of "She was raped." Women aren't children and don't need to be infantilized.
jimhines
Apr. 23rd, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
It was intentional. I was trying to capture the voice of the guys I've heard who tried to make excuses and shifting responsibility and accountabilty. However, if you felt insulted by this, then my writing wasn't effective and I apologize for that.
chamois_shimi
Apr. 23rd, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
Have you ever noticed how many magazine ads (possibly TV too, but I don't watch much so I dunno) supposedly depicting sexy, slinkily dressed women giving come-hither looks are actually depicting women with the look of being stoned or wasted out of their gourds? Look at their expressions - no lights on, nobody home! This is what the media is conditioning people to believe is a "I want you now big boy" look.
jimhines
Apr. 23rd, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
I haven't, but I don't think I've read a single magazine lately, aside from flipping through Entertainment Weekly because someone said my book was mentioned in there. I'm not surprised, though. The mass media's idea of "sexy" has been seriously messed up for years.
rose_lemberg
Apr. 24th, 2008 05:57 am (UTC)
We're talking about assault as opposed to rape, FYI:
http://grayrose76.livejournal.com/24563.html
jycaegima
Apr. 25th, 2008 10:42 am (UTC)
Thank you for writing about this. I agree that there seems to be a total inability to not turn the conversation around to be about how it affects men negatively.

For example, my brother and I were talking about this earlier today. He knows I was raped when I was younger and he predominantly has female friends--many of whom have been assaulted. His first response in the conversation was still about he knew a friend of a friend who had been falsely accused.

I kind of blew up and said that as soon as one in four men were falsely accused and had to deal with the repercussions for the rest of their lives then I would consider it an equal issue, but at the moment it isn't. It is incredibly frustrating to have people you expect to know better play the "let's explain how this affects the majority so you know we have it rough too card". I cannot imagine having to face a full room of that over and over again. Congratulations on keeping your professional cool because I know I could not.
jimhines
Apr. 25th, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
::Headdesk::

I don't know ... I think in some ways, it's probably easier to face that kind of response from a group of strangers than it would be to hear it from someone you trust and expect to know better. It's frustrating and painful either way.

And you know, sometimes anger blowing up is a good thing. Sometimes that's the only way people start to understand.
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rubynye
Apr. 26th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you. So very, very much.
ravenkeeper
Apr. 27th, 2008 11:14 am (UTC)
I am ashamed of having unknowingly hung onto the frase from thought 1
and I whole heartedly agree with thought 2.

thankyou for writting this post
3starsinmyeyes
Apr. 27th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
My brother in law was falsely accused of rape and spent a year in jail for it, several years before he actually became my bro in law. I would never in a million years not trust him with anyone or anything.

Thank You for writing this
khrysha
Apr. 28th, 2008 08:24 am (UTC)
Came to read your article via debunkingmale and via http://synecdochic.livejournal.com/214607.html

Very interesting read. Thoughtful.

I particularly liked your closing thoughts.
bewarethespork
Apr. 29th, 2008 12:45 am (UTC)
All right. Here via...well, someone else who's posted about this (I have clicked so many links today). And I have to say, you might not have been a great guy just for saying you'd post something about sexual assault, but you're a pretty good guy in my eyes for making this post.

So, just...word. Word topped with wordsauce and sprinkled with wordsprinkles. And thank you.
jimhines
Apr. 29th, 2008 12:53 am (UTC)
Thank you.

You know, there have been an awful lot of responses to this post, but yours is the first one that made me hungry for ice cream...
(no subject) - bewarethespork - Apr. 29th, 2008 12:56 am (UTC) - Expand
chasethecat
Apr. 29th, 2008 07:53 am (UTC)
You hear so much about false accusations of rape; I was shocked when I learned that the rate of false accusations of rape are the same as the average of false accusations for all crimes. (About 3%, if I'm remembering correctly.)

Awesome post, thank you.
jimhines
Apr. 29th, 2008 11:38 am (UTC)
I've heard that stat, though I believe it was 2%. My problem is that I've never found a reliable source for that statistic. I've heard it attributed to the FBI, but haven't been able to find the primary research.

And then you have the fact that people can conflate "false reports" with "unfounded reports." In other words, any time a police department decides there's not enough evidence, that's one more tick mark in the "unfounded" category, which can be twisted to show that women are all just making it up.

It's frustrating as hell, and I really wish I had some solid stats. Anecdotally, I've never known anyone who was falsely accused, and I've known countless rape survivors. But hard data would be helpful too.
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santineao
Apr. 29th, 2008 08:27 am (UTC)
Thank you for articulating a difficult issue in an informative and supportive way. Just wanted to share a past thought of mine on the subject:

In college, I wrote a paper discussing the evolution of rape law from the time when women were seen as owned by men, to the then current time (about 2001). It took me a long time to come up with a conclusion, because even though the basic law had been changed and restructured 3 times... it still didn't work in practical application. After thinking about this a long time I had the disturbing realization that each and every drafting of the law, from a hundred plus years ago, to today, had the same basic flaw. Each one assumed that consent to have sex had to be taken away... but never that it had to be given in the first place. Essentially, the end result was that consent was implied until the woman took it away using a specific action (saying no, resisting, etc). And while its a good thing to have a law where consent can be given, then later taken away if someone changes their mind, I find it highly disturbing that consent does not actually ever have to be given to begin with. The notion that in our society, every man has an implied right to have sex with me unless or until I take it away is seriously scary. Women should have to give that right, not take it away.
vampire_kitten
Apr. 29th, 2008 11:06 am (UTC)
The notion that in our society, every man has an implied right to have sex with me unless or until I take it away is seriously scary. Women should have to give that right, not take it away.

The current UK law has changed this, although it hasn't yet had much effect on the application of the law.
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reddwarfer
Apr. 29th, 2008 12:52 pm (UTC)
When my mother was raped, and almost died as a result, her father had commented to her brother that, "any could slap her ass, and she'd say 'come on, let's go'" and I continually am faced with the concept that rape is always on a woman's shoulder to face, deal with, and prevent.

It's sad to say that few people will stand up and say what you said. I don't want this to come out wrong, but I don't want to say thank you to you and I don't want to say "good on you", but I am, because, honestly? I think that this mindset should be a given. I'm tired of the fact that it's not. I'm angry that I even need to say as much. I'm angry that rape and sexual abuse is so trivialised worldwide. I'm angry that people are more concerned about false allegations. And, you know, I wonder how many of those "friend of a friend" stories are lies. How many of those "friends" are rapists that just want to deny til they die?


damhan_alluidh
Apr. 29th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
...
...
Ok... HAte this to be my only comment on this issue at the moment, but...
This made me sick. Threw up a bit in my mouth.
I have two sisters... if someone hurt either of them, my first reaction would involve a tire iron.
How could someone not defend his daughter?
You're a dad... it's your frickin JOB. You should be angry at yourself for failing, and and the asshole for hurting your daughter... NOT her.
Sorry, that's a real sore point. A lot of these so called 'men' play up that they're some big provider and defender to get out of changing diapers or making dinner... and then when it comes time to step up and stand with her? He puts the blame squarely on his daughter.
Real big man.
I'm from a small, rural town, and I've seen this happen way too many damned times.


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damhan_alluidh
Apr. 29th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
Good post Jim,

I know some of this. Depresses me.
Help hand out fliers, or work walksafe, or any little thing, and you're some kind of hero. It shouldn't be so shocking.
And on language:
We need to co-opt what 'being a man' about something means.
You see someone being assaulted? Be a man. Help.
A friend is being pushy at a party, trying to booze up some woman to get her in bed? Be a man. Tell him to back the hell off.

Too many women I know have been raped. Mostly by 'friends'.
Too many gay men I know have been raped. Mostly by 'straight' men.
In all of this, I've only ever kown one guy who was falsely accused, and it came out pretty quick. Percentage wise, that doesn't even get into statistical signifigance.
I know three men who have been sexually assaulted in some way by women, only one went to the police, and was laughed out. (As were any of the gay men who tried to bring charges). I just get people to watch my drinks if I get up from the table now.
jimhines
Apr. 29th, 2008 11:55 pm (UTC)
There's a nice post about the "hero" thing over at Angry Black Woman today.

And yes, men really need to learn to speak out and actually confront one another on this stuff.
evil_mr_tim
Apr. 29th, 2008 11:07 pm (UTC)
I don't want to fall into the convention of saying "You're a guy who spoke out against rape, allow me to present you with this medal", but I really do like this post, so, kudos.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 29th, 2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
I appreciate your concern for survivors of rape.
I'd like to point out that the statistics are inaccurate. 1 in 7 women experiences sexual assault, and only 13% of cases are ever reported.

Men are victims in 5 to 10% of sexual assaults in the US.

As a survivor, I want to point out that no experience is the same, no person suffers exactly the same, and no circumstances are exactly the same.

Please treat survivors with respect and understand that it is NOT a "story to tell". It is a fact of their life, just like having brown hair or green eyes.

Thank you for addressing this issue, although - as you said - I don't see anything noble in addressing it.
It is a relevant issue that DOES need more discussion - but we should not pride ourselves on discussing it, because that's only going to perpetuate all the same negative effects of being a survivor of sexual assault.
jimhines
Apr. 29th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Thank you for your comments. Do you mind if I ask where your statistics come from? They don't match my personal observations or my own research, but then, it's extremely difficult to get accurate numbers about sexual assault.
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