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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. 23rd, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC)
You're right. Blaming the victim is adding insult to injury, and nobody needs that, ever. But talking about potential dangers and acts that might make you a victim of crime? Is necessary. Nobody deserves to get raped, just as nobody deserves to get hurt in a car crash - but if you're drunk, you're more likely to be involed in an accident. So discussing what an individual might do that would help them not to get into a dangerous situation, or to get out of it, is not 'blaming the victim' IMHO - it's a necessary part of the discussion. And I think it's very valuable that it's picked up from a male perspective as well.

One thing men can do is the next time one of their friends says something like 'ah, she's only pretending, she really wants to have sex with someone' or 'well, in those clothes, that's asking for it' is call them upon it. The next time they objectify and degrade a woman, they can tell them that this is not acceptable behaviour. Every little helps.

Your comment here about society almost expecting women to get raped is mind-blowing to me. I don't disagree, but I've never actually thought of it in that way. I'm going to be mulling that one over for a while.

I look forward to reading them. I was a bit shocked when I read what I'd written, but the more I think about it, the more I feel there's truth in it. Rape is part not only of the warning narratives delivered to girls (don't go out on your own, don't hitchhike, don't wear short skirts, don't go out in the dark) but it also has a firm place in the entertainment industry. We are almost used to seeing rape playing out on screen, and a lot of books have rape as a threat to the heroine, or something the hero saves her from, or something she's recovering from. It almost seems to be a shorthand for 'the worst thing that can happen which she can overcome without future consequences (as if!), while the loss of a limb would be much more complicated to write. (Both male and female authors are guilty of this one).

But what also concerns me is that every day in my inbox I get spam that uses the language of violence to advertise sex. 'Make her scream louder' wasn't even the most offensive. And there *still* is a lot of 'alpha-male' language about, particularly in Urban Fantasy, which is meant to show a character strong and in control, but which to me reads creepy and dangerous.

If a stranger turned up on my porch after dark and repeatedly laughed at me when I told me to go, I'd call the police and consider myself in danger, I would not fall in love with him. Yet that is what common narratives suggest that women _should_ do. Creeps me out every time.
Apr. 26th, 2008 02:18 am (UTC)
I was just linked here and had to comment on this:

And there *still* is a lot of 'alpha-male' language about, particularly in Urban Fantasy, which is meant to show a character strong and in control, but which to me reads creepy and dangerous.

I love Urban Fantasy, but I only read the ones where women seem to have an inner strength and listens to instincts. Why? Because, sadly, it's a rarity in the mainstream media. Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld books, the female werewolf was turned into one without her consent and it took her ten years to start accept the fact. For me, those incidents are substitutes for things like rape. And I like that the character didn't just accept it. It wasn't a Luke/Laura thing. And the man shows remorse, too. Sincere, can't believe he did that remorse where he doesn't forgive himself, never forgets. Which I think is missing in a lot of the genre. And the women gain a stronger spine for it. Refuses to be a victim again.


Jim C. Hines


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