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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.



( 267 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 1st, 2008 11:24 am (UTC)
At first, I wasn't going to comment on this post. I didn't have anything to say except, you know, good job for talking about it or whatever. But as I read more and more of the comments (almost all of the four pages), it started to get more and more personal for me.

I've been thinking about my last relationship. It was my first "real" relationship and I thought I would end up marrying the guy. In the almost year that has passed since the relationship ended, I've realized that the guy I thought was so great, didn't even really respect me at all. Even now, I am hesitant to write this next part, because I don't want to claim that I was raped when I really wasn't. I don't want to say it when other women, including my mother, have gone through much worse. I think part of the reason I want to write about it is so that I can be told whether or not I was raped. Or if it was just sexual assault. Or maybe even if it's normal in relationships, and really not a big deal. Is it sad that I'm asking, that I feel like I have to ask?

If it ends up that I'm making a fuss about nothing, feel free to delete my post. After reading what so many of the other women have posted, I don't want to put up a false claim. Not with so many real ones up here.

This is what my last relationship was like:
My ex-boyfriend didn't respect my sexual boundaries, at all. When I said no, for whatever reason, he always pushed. He always tried to get me to say yes. A lot of times, I would stick with no and tell him to let it go. But there were also times when I finally gave in. I finally said ok, so that he would leave me alone and I could go on with my day. But then there were the times when I would wake up from sleep and he was putting himself inside. I couldn't just say no at that point; he had already started. And then there's the fact that he cajoled me into trying anal. I let him, and it hurt and I found I didn't want to do it again. I told him so. And still, there was anal sex after that. I told him no, and he cajoled some more, and I would finally give in. Until I finally said no, and wouldn't let him anymore. And gradually, our sex life died off. Months would pass where he wouldn't get sex, not because of his lack of trying of course. I would give him sex once every now and then, because I thought it was my duty as his longtime girlfriend who had had sex with him already to do so. We both knew that my problem was that I didn't like what lead up to the sex. I liked it during the sex, sometimes. But I never really wanted to have sex, in general. After we finally broke up, I felt dirty about what we had done. Especially anal. I hadn't really wanted to try it in the first place. It had been one of those, "I'm doing it to prove I don't like it" sort of things. It always embarrasses me when people find out I've tried anal, and I think I've finally really figured out why. Maybe it's because it was something I didn't want to do in the first place. Maybe it's because it was a violation of boundaries I had set for myself. Or maybe I'm just ashamed to have done it at all.

I'm sorry if I've posted something that doesn't need to be here. It's just... after reading all this, I want to know what my experience would be classified as. And I think that that seems wrong, that I want it classified. I felt, and still do feel, violated, regardless of whether or not it really was rape. Does that count for anything?
May. 1st, 2008 12:49 pm (UTC)
Hi Kiera,

You have every right to post this here. Thank you for doing so.

It's actually not unusual for people to be confused over whether or not something is rape. We see and read so much about the stranger-in-the-bushes scenario, and we know *that* counts as rape. When we're facing a situation that's very different from that standard (date rape, rape within marriage, etc.) it's normal to be confused.

What it sounds like you're saying is that you would tell your ex-boyfriend no, and he wouldn't respect that. You felt pressured, you feel like your boundaries were violated, and you feel ashamed for what happened. You also talk about waking up to find him already penetrating you.

That last example seems especially clearcut. If you're not conscious, you can't consent. Particularly given the fact that you were in a relationship where you had made it clear that you often didn't want him having sex with you, the fact is that he chose to violate your body while you were asleep. But throughout the relationship, it sounds like you're saying you were pressured and coerced into things you didn't want to do.

It sounds like you feel raped, but you're having a hard time trusting that. And while I don't feel right trying to impose my definitions and meanings on you, I would encourage you to trust yourself.

I hope this makes sense. And thank you again for posting here.
(no subject) - deardriunatesa - May. 2nd, 2008 06:39 am (UTC) - Expand
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May. 1st, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, late to the party, as always - I try to catch up on things in my free time, and don't always have the chance.

I appreciate this post. Sometimes, in my meanderings across the 'net, I get absolutely bogged down by the constant in-your-face woman hatred, degradation, dismissal, and mockery - and that's not the porn sites, that's the discussion boards.

I like a good joke as much as anyone, but I feel sometimes that a lot of men don't understand the sheer level of anger that a lot of women experience on a daily basis, and so they don't understand why it's such a "big deal" when our boundaries are violated.

It's nice when a man does get why it's a big deal, because as women, we can't get taken seriously by the very men who need to be reached the most, whereas they are more likely to listen to someone in their "club". So, thank you.
May. 1st, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)
I've made a pact with myself to defriend anyone who refuses to believe the basic essence of what you wrote.

May. 2nd, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC)

I have ingested too little caffeine yet to make an intelligent contribution to this discussion. But well-written, sir. I share your anger.
Sep. 22nd, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
Your article was so refreshing. I was raped nearly 6 years ago now. I was not drunk, wearing the wrong clothes or out on my own. I was raped in my own home. Only now after being in therapy can i finally live again. My trust of men is gone forever though. Caz
Jul. 22nd, 2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
You are marvelous, not least of all for pointing out that this shouldn't be so damned unusual. Thank you.
Jul. 22nd, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad to know people are still finding this one.
Jul. 22nd, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
I fully agree with your post. It is interesting how desensitized many people are to issue of rape, both men and women. I once had a gentleman pay me a compliment in the following form: "You are so hot, if you weren't going out with me, I'd rape ya!" Granted, that was the end of our acquaintance.

However, as a woman, I sometimes find scarily very little sympathy for my sisters out there who are dealing with the rape aftermath. All I can muster in my head is "C'mon, everyone gets raped, get over it, move on..." Perhaps, it is a sign of me, myself, not getting over or not moving on quite as much as I'd like to. Perhaps, it is a sign of me being a product of the culture where rape is more or less normalized. Or both.

Where I am from, may be only a couple of girls from my year reached high school graduation without being molested in some form, always by a man. Where i am from, it was not only normal, but strongly advised, that every girl should have a pack of condoms in her purse - just in case she will be attacked and raped, so she could have at least some protection. It was publicized in both joking and serious forms that if raped the best thing is to try relax and enjoy the process.

I read your post and I want to scream. What you are saying should be so obvious, but somehow it is not. At least not to all...
Jul. 28th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
About thought #1:
You focus on a really irrelevant subject here. I really don't think that someone who says "she was raped" puts responsibility on the victim. That's just semantics pettiness.
Sep. 27th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)
I'm either really late to the discussion, or you just showed up on StumbleUpon.

I agree with you fully. A number of my girlfriends have been rape victims, and their nightmares are yours forever after the first one you experience.
Jan. 31st, 2010 06:41 am (UTC)
Rape an isue for both men and women...
Quote: "Because rape is a women's issue." This is simply not true--statistically, by far, men suffer more rapes than women. Just because it happens in prison to criminals does not make it not rape and it doesn't make it OK to ignore it and treat it like it doesn't happen.

That aside, until men and women both see rape as a HUMAN problem, men won't take it seriously and women rape victims will still be attacked by defense attorneys, portrayed as "asking for it" in the media and generally let down by a society that actually should know better.
Aug. 26th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Rape an isue for both men and women...
Wonderful discussion.

You mentioned that men are raped too, but we don't talk about it. I've read the claims that more men are raped in prison that unincarcerated women in the US too. What about this?

It annoys me that usually I see rape portrayed as men raping women. I wish that male victims were included and children because I know so many male and child victims. Rapists can be female. However,

* I suspect the rate of Male male prison rape cannot be stated even as a range with some certainty.
* Prison rape is viewed as just punishment
* Does this muddy the issue of men raping women?
* Should women be expected to speak for male victims?
* Does this create the "Now its a problem because it happens to men" dynamic?
* Why the hell should men not be involved because it's a "women's issue"? Men are too often the perpatrators.

There's just so much wrong about our society and rape. Perhaps it's just that once you look at this issue, it seems like nobody is taking any of it seriously at all.
Feb. 26th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
Jim -- I was just rereading this post since you linked back to it from today's post about rape and fandom, and wanted to let you know that the STFU link you linked to is, I'm guessing, probably not what you originally linked to. (Or perhaps it is, in which case a NSFW warning might be a good idea.)

Oh, and also: thank you again so much for making this post. I can't tell you the number of times I've linked it or sent it to someone; it's been really invaluable in discussions with male friends about rape.
Feb. 26th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
Whoa. Thank you. I'll be delinking that now...
Aug. 21st, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
I like this post. I'm not sure how far you're going to get with postscript #1 though....many things are phrased this way. "He was murdered" "I was robbed" "Jenny got hit by a car" etc. It seems by and large we discuss all these things as misfortunes dropped on us by the universe rather than malicious (or negligent) acts of other individuals. Since none of us view ourselves as criminals, we are more likely to identify with the victim and put all the emphasis on what "happened to them" rather than focusing on the external force that caused the event.

I think it also depends who we're talking about. If we're discussing the victim we're more likely to use this phrasing....if we're discussing the actor, we'd be more likely to say "He raped someone" "He ran someone over on his tractor" etc.

Sep. 15th, 2010 05:22 am (UTC)
Thank you!
You are virtually the only man I've encountered, in any context who actually gets this and gives a damn. THANK YOU! Even if there is no rape or violence, these attitudes still take a toll. It seems that the average male in our society, latches onto the notion that brandishimg a certain amount of sexism is what makes them a man. They think that this limited little "boys club manhood" is the ultimate. Anyone who tries to pry a man loose from his "frat house' sensibilities - for any reason - is met with hostility. Women have strong sexual desires and the capacity to feel and express deep, passionate love -- but our natural feelings can't flourish in a society that subjects us to an endless "Chinese Water Torture" of coarse remarks, inappropriate behavior, ogling, cat calls, appraisals and comparisons, inappropriate actions, and cheap, mean-spirited humor. We feel alienated, and men conclude that we're complicated and that dealing with us is too much effort. They merrily retreat to a fantasy world telling themselves and each other that regular, solo, use of pornographic material that demeans women is a normal, healthy sexual outlet for a grown man who has a family and who shares a bed with an attractive wife. If men thought and behaved differently, women would feel secure - and free to love passionately, expressively and completely. Instead, we feel demeaned and shut ourselves down. Everybody loses, but the women grieve this loss because we know that there is forever a void where the richest most beautiful, exciting part of our lives should have been. They say that women don't dress to please men, but instead, for the approval of other women -- Likewise, I think don't men express their sexuality to please women, but instead, for the approval of other men.
Oct. 19th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
"Someone raped her" vs "She was raped (by someone)" - the reason you give is completely wrong, you're misunderstanding grammar. If the perpetrator is unknown it makes sense "economically" to not mention that the perpetrator indeed was a "someone". The passive is also frequently used in this manner, cf "she was murdered", "she was killed", etc. I find it hard to see how it could be argued that either puts any blame on the victim.
Oct. 24th, 2010 06:03 am (UTC)
I don't get why everybody's congratulating you, you haven't said anything. It's not like this is some backwards middle eastern country where rapes get swept under the rug. People know its seriously wrong, and a convicted rapist gets what they deserve from other inmates in any prison. As for your big ol' cup of STFU, that's actually a serious issue. I don't know if you're trying to pander to all the women out there or what, but there are actually some very psycho ladies that have ruined men's entire lives with those sort of false accusations. To suggest that telling a dirty joke, and actually physically raping another human being are in any way similar is a seriously twisted thing to say.
You sir, are a weasel. Myself, and every guy I know wouldn't think twice about putting a rapist in a coma. To cast shame on masculine tendencies and turn men into a tribe that make excuses for each other is downright low. Amazingly, you left out the absolute number one most important thing about any rape case. And that's reporting it immediately to the authorities. It's probably a difficult process after what someone's gone through. But if a rape goes unreported and the rapist walks free, it could happen again to someone else.
That comes off as a little harsh, Mr. Hines. And I'm sure you mean well. But I suppose there's the type of man who consoles the friend who bumps into her rapist, and the kind of man who tracks the dude down and does something about it.
Oct. 24th, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes. The courageous and "manly" contribution from the anonymous troll...
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Dec. 10th, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
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( 267 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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