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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. 21st, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
Great post. There are so many misconceptions about rape among both men and women. I know you're not involved in the world of fic much, but there is a disturbing trend among a certain sub-genre, basically rape fic, which depicts the act in a completely unrealistic, fantastically romanticized and WRONG way. I wrote a lengthy (admittedly angry) post about it once, and some of the comments that post generated I still find unbelievable. And most of those commenters were women.
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
I think the real key in understanding those fantasies is that while they have all the earmarks of rape, I don't think that's really what they are.

Why do I say that?

Because I've been a victim, and I still have what would be classified as rape fic.

I think that particular type of story feeds into the desire of some women for aggressiveness and submissiveness. In other words (and this is NOT a good thing by any means), No doesn't really mean No in these stories.

Again, not a good thing because then you send mixed messages to men. The BDSM community handles it better in that it's consensual and there's always a safeword.
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
I agree with this - in my post, I even talk about how common it is for women to fantasize about being dominated - but I wrote the post in response to a specific subclass of fiction, in which the rape victim, after the rape, decides he/she really, secretly enjoyed the experience and then sets about recreating it with another character. And the overwhelming comment responses were along the lines of "yeah, he/she really meant 'no', hee hee" - seriously. And a disturbing number of these comments were coming from young girls who may not really know the first thing about real rape.

I also tried to delineate between fantasy and reality in my post, and the difference in fiction between 'rape' and 'forced seduction', or even consensual 'BDSM' and the importance of properly labeling fics of all these types. Unfortunately, I apparently didn't communicate what I was trying to clearly enough.
Apr. 30th, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)
[wanders into the discussion many days later]

I'm not surprised that a lot of the comments were coming from young girls. I've found that a huge number of people _producing_ rape fiction of that type *are* young girls -- before fanfiction.net changed its rules all around, there was a staggering amount of Harry Potter fiction centering around Hermione being raped there, and the vast majority of it was written by girls younger than 15.

My theory was that a lot of these girls had no idea what to do with their own sexual desire, and how it conflicts with messages from society about purity/women not having a sex drive/women having to be gatekeepers, and what they were writing was part of them trying to sort out that kind of crap.

Which did NOT make me want to read it, mind, but I remember the sheer horrid confusion of trying to sort that out myself, and then I am grateful that I did not have the internet to share my fantasies with at that time in my life.


Jim C. Hines


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