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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. 30th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
That's the problem with the current system. "She said" part should be sufficient -- ie, the current system ASSUMES consent and it falls to the victim to prove that consent was NOT given, which is backwards and inherently difficult to prove. Now if we assume that consent is NOT given as a default, then it falls to the rapist to prove that he had this consent, and in the absense of such proof victim's testimony should be sufficient. That would be a legal system that does not condone rape.
Apr. 30th, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
That most certainly is not a problem with the current system.

Do you seriously mean to say that we should give precedence to one voice over another based upon its gender? If you accept equality between genders, you cannot. If we should accept whoever claims first, there is nothing to stop a racist from claiming rape and being safe from any possible accusation in the future.

If we accept the victim's claim at face value, a counterclaim is perfectly reasonable. Why can't the accused claim that they were raped instead?

Perhaps written consent should be given, yes - but when it is not present, who do we assume is guilty? I don't feel that we can assume either way.
Apr. 30th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
Our justice system is theoretically based on the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty. (With varying degrees of "proof" depending on the circumstances.) Personally, I think that's probably a good thing.

But rape is the only crime I can think of where the way the system works is based on the assumption that the defendant is a liar until proven honest.

When a man goes to court to press charges against a mugger, we don't say to him, "Prove you were mugged." We do say "Prove that this is the man who mugged you."

With rape, we basically assume, "You weren't really mugged. Unless you can prove otherwise, we're going to assume you made a charitable donation to this kind man with the revolver, and now you've changed your mind and are trying to ruin his reputation."
Apr. 30th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
You've phrased it very nicely.

Stranger rape seems to be fairly similar to the mugging situation, so I think we're nominally fine there. For situations where consent is at stake, things are ... uck. Considering that some (most, I should fervently hope) sex is consentual, how do we deal with it?

I can't think off the top of my head how I could reformulate things so as to improve the situation.. Any suggestions?
Apr. 30th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
1) Male voice is privileged by the current system, since the victim of a rape is often put in a defensive position and her credibility is habitually attacked.

2) Considering that it is men who rape women and not the other way around, the counterclaim argument does not hold water.

3) Women's right to walk around unraped should supercede male inconvenience.
Apr. 30th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
1) Significant problem which should be undermined. The current practice of attacking the credibility and cross-examining is problematic. The solution is to promote equality of voice, is it not?

2) If you are merely interested in furthering women's power, rather than seeking equality, we will necessarily be opposed to each other's aims.

3) True. Conviction is not mere inconvenience however. Also, if we started having convictions in this manner, it would discredit the stories of true victims as rapists could always say that they were only convicted because of their gender, not because of their actions. The right to have any male convicted on their say-so is, however, nonexistent. Are you really saying that you want to go back to the old system of one gender having near-complete power over the other (albeit with the genders reversed)? It used to be that the male's story was always believed without question. Reversing this situation improves nothing.

A male's right not to be convicted based upon a claim alone does supercede the right of females to have them convicted based upon a claim. The key is that _we cannot know_ who is telling the truth in "She-said-He-said" situations. Therefore, we cannot convict. I'm not saying that we should assume She is lying - otherwise we would automatically convict her of perjury. We shouldn't assume He is lying either - same deal, except with the added on rape conviction. We simply must say that we cannot know.

I do not know how to improve the situation on a legal basis. What I do know is that having insta-convictions based upon giving complete credence to one person's claims over another's will only make things worse.
May. 1st, 2008 12:27 am (UTC)
Once more: talking of equality in this context is not helpful, because it is MEN who rape WOMEN, not the other way around. It's not a symmetrical situation.

As far as not assuming that every woman consents to have sex with every man (as in the current legislation which assumes consent as a default): it is very simple. If a woman claims that sex was not consensual AND a man cannot provide evidence that consent was given (such as a written note) than it was rape. End of story. The only burden it places on the man in this situation is obtaining consent -- hence 'inconvenience' as used by me. I found it troubling that you immediately jumped to the assumption that such situation would lead to false convictions.
May. 1st, 2008 04:57 am (UTC)
I think the problem here is that you are making it sound very much like you want any man accused of rape to be assumed "Guilty until proven innocent", and convicted on the spot.

I would like to think what you were trying to say is more like what Jim said; that a woman who makes the accusation is now automatically assumed to be lying, or treated as if she were lying, and this is a major problem, and flat wrong. Because everyone here would agree.

I have said before that if a woman tells me she thinks she was raped, I would take her at her word. However, the context in which I meant that was as to whether to help her deal with the trauma, face up to a doctor's examination, and get the courage to take it to court.

Once it hits the court, the actual ideal is not to privilege her words, or his, but the objective facts. He raped her, and she can successfully identify him. He claims an alibi or an alternate circumstance. The jury weighs the evidence. They do not demonize the woman, and assume she is telling the truth. But neither do they convict him instantly merely on the basis that he is taken to court.

On a side issue:

I don't remember ever giving written consent to sex. I've had a fair bit of consensual sex. I'd like to continue to have the freedom to do so without having to write my male partners a note every time. (And clearly, my female partners would be off the hook?) The number of issues of love and trust that would be warped by this requirement just boggle my mind.
May. 1st, 2008 05:17 am (UTC)
"I think the problem here is that you are making it sound very much like you want any man accused of rape to be assumed "Guilty until proven innocent", and convicted on the spot."

Just to make it clear, I am talking about a situation where it is established that sex took place, and the only unresolved issue is consent. So, when a woman says that she did not give consent, I am inclined to believe her, yes. Notice also that we are talking about the current legal system which practically encourages rape by forcing the victim to prove that she did not give consent (ie, the default being that she DID consent). I am simply suggesting reversing the situation -- this way, if a woman says that she was raped, the legal system ought to assume that she is telling the truth.

"But neither do they convict him instantly merely on the basis that he is taken to court."

I did not suggest that. I suggested that the burden is on him to prove that consent was given -- as in case of mugging, as Jim suggested, where we do not make the victim prove that she did not voluntarily give the assailant her wallet and car. Rather, if he makes such a claim, the burden of proof is on him, and we privilege the victim's testimony.

"I don't remember ever giving written consent to sex. I've had a fair bit of consensual sex. I'd like to continue to have the freedom to do so without having to write my male partners a note every time."

And you are of course free to do so. Unless your male partner suspects that you are a liar who will falsely accuse him of rape; in this case, it is prudent for him to ask for such a note -- which raises an entirely different issue of trust and whether men should be having sex with women who (they suspect) might make false accusations. As I said, it seems a minor inconvenience compared to the number of women who are victimized with no legal recourse or whose rapists were let go because victim's character was called into question.
May. 1st, 2008 06:19 am (UTC)
For the first series of comments, it sounds like, as I thought, everyone in this thread was in violent agreement, and it's the phrasings getting in the way and causing people to think otherwise.


And you are of course free to do so. Unless your male partner suspects that you are a liar who will falsely accuse him of rape; in this case, it is prudent for him to ask for such a note -- which raises an entirely different issue of trust and whether men should be having sex with women who (they suspect) might make false accusations. As I said, it seems a minor inconvenience compared to the number of women who are victimized with no legal recourse or whose rapists were let go because victim's character was called into question.

Let's reread your first sentence:

I am free not to give him what he wants *unless* he doesn't trust me.... ?

Now, I KNOW that isn't what you meant.

If the person who wishes to have sex with me thinks I might be a liar who will commit a false accusation and airs this thought (Which he would have to to be asking me for a note, it's not a request anyone in real-world transactions would make out of the blue and without an explanation), there is no way I'm giving consent.

And I do wonder at the men who would consider having sex with someone they trusted so little. As stated by someone else, the implication seems to be that what they're really thinking is that they *want* to have "sex" with that woman whether she consents or not, and the only thing stopping them from committing actual rape is that fear of a "false" accusation. (Which would then not be false, but that particular logical leap seems to get missed.)

Yes, a man having to ask for such a note would be a minor inconvenience compared to a woman who is being accused of lying or being a slut or otherwise getting slandered. But to assume that only written consent is sufficient proof of innocence on the man's part really does go too far over the line into "Guilty until proven innocent."
May. 1st, 2008 08:08 am (UTC)
It is not helpful, because I believe that there are worse things than rape. I believe in legal and social equality (or as close as we can get). If one prioritizes the reduction of rape above and beyond all else, then you are of course correct. I will not, however, accept the elimination of legal equality. There must be a way of stopping rape (or at least _severely_ reducing...) that does not involve simply inverting the past situation where men had their word automatically taken above that of women.

If we were really, really serious about reducing the rape of women to the exclusion of all else, we'd simply go to a matriarchal system where men were slaves. That _would_ "work". Is this worth it? I do not think so. I think there are better solutions or improvements - more on the social, societal, and specific implementation of the law [at least where I live] than legal changes.

I think it's a lot more than an inconvenience though - it's the presumption of guilt. It's saying that barring proof, all men are rapists. I understand where it comes from, but I will never condone something that removes presumed innocence. I will never accept a proposal that does away with such a critical, base-level and fundamental portion of a just justice system.

I do not believe it is an assumption - I believe it is a reasonable conclusion. Do we want to make rape convictions explainable away as "I just forgot to get the consent form signs, honest"? Actually, what about destruction of forms? Must consensual sex be registered as well? I can certainly see situations where there would be ample opportunity to destroy the consent forms. Hell, even if it got to the point of a husband having to have consent forms for sex with his wife (which, of course, would inevitably be required as rape can indeed occur within a marriage) do we really think that if she wanted to she couldn't destroy the forms?

If this was enacted, I know it would be true in enough cases for it to be believed in more - even if we accept a few (arguably) false accusations in exchange for preventing (hopefully, even after a few years of implementation) more rapes, it removes the legitimacy of survivors' claims. People will not believe. Wuite simply, requiring men to obtain written consent is untenable and critically flawed. I'm about as pro-equality and anti-rape as they come, and I can't see possibly supporting this idea. If I can't support this idea, there's no way it would ever gain widespread support. So, what will actually a) work and b) be accepted?

What I am interested in is ways to prevent people from being raped. That they are female is irrelevant to me - people are people are people. To begin to distinguish between groups, giving different groups different legal privileges in this manner seems to be a rather slippery slope (race? religion?), but let's avoid going there.

Note: I actually support the rewriting of all law so as to not reference gender. I've gone over a number of civil and criminal codes, and there is no reason for any referencing of gender in any law. For the inevitable "reproduction" claim - simply reference pregnancy. If there ever is a male who is pregnant, eh, whatever - let's treat them the same legally as a pregnant female, yes? Same regarding spouses, specific internal organs, etc.
Dec. 16th, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC)
it is MEN who rape WOMEN, not the other way around

Okay, you keep saying that, but there have been cases (I wish I could remember cases to cite but IANAL and I am UKian not USian and so could nt quote USian statistics anyway) where women have been convicted of raping men.

You are also assuming that there are only those two genders. This is also an erroneous assumption.

I am sure that someone else with more knowledge can fill in the dtails that I lack, but I was annoyed the first time you wrote this and am now incensed. Your priviledge and assumption seems… *speechless*
Dec. 16th, 2010 03:05 pm (UTC)
No, actually, I'm responding to a specific situation Jim is describing. I'm not a fan of binary gender, but statistically it is still female-identified persons who are much more likely to be targets of rape. While female-on-male rape does occur and it does seem to be becoming more common, it is still far far less frequent than the opposite, so it is not a symmetrical situation. Jim is talking about the most common scenario (not the only one, obviously), and the fact that the prosecution of such cases often lies in establishing consent. Which would benefit everyone, regardless of gender.


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