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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.



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.


Jim C. Hines

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