The Great Gender Hypocrisy of Rape

So picture this. A girl of sixteen works in a hospital. On her birthday, a coworker beckons her into an unused operating theater. He starts to tell her that he has a thing for younger women, that he finds her very attractive. She backs up, mouth working wordlessly, and her back hits a gurney. Her coworker closes the distance and as she mumbles and looks uncomfortable and confused, he drops her pants.

Then, bam! SURPRISE! It’s a surprise party! It was all a prank! They’re all up in the observatory holding up a sign for your birthday!

Now, what you just read seems like the most sexually encroaching surprise party ever. What is it really? Why, it’s the opening episode of Doogie Howser, MD, with all the genders swapped. Because hey gals, it’s not rape if he’s overwhelmed by societal pressure to score with an older woman! That’s just “fulfilling a fantasy all boys have”. In fact, it’s a fantasy that’s so pervasive that suddenly all men have it too – to the point where generally, we as a society cannot believe that it is possible for a man to be raped.

I play roleplaying games, as I mentioned in a couple posts. They’re a hobby really, but I also find them to be eye opening at times. Recently a character of mine that is adept at poisons and potions was approached by a female character. She was angry that a man had been snarky and hateful toward her, and wanted the basic equivalent to roofies and Spanish Fly. As this was going on, the player of said character was joking about how it was “surprise roleplay” she was going to spring on him. Someone else said, “lol raep much?” and she replied, “Whatever, he’s a guy, he wants it, he just doesn’t know it yet.” I excused myself from the RP, and didn’t say anything, because it was abundantly clear to me that this person had no notion of why that situation was upsetting.

All the notions of roleplay etiquette and not springing triggering stuff on people aside, it was abundantly clear to me that this person had no concept at all that rape was unacceptable no matter what gender it was perpetrated against. Her last statement was the most telling.  He’s a guy, he wants it, he just doesn’t know it yet. How did we become a society where the standard for males wanting to score totally outweighed the possibility that he might not want to sleep with you?

Now in some weird reality where I’m not talking to a bunch of enlightened people and survivors, someone might read this and say, “Onion Girl, what do you care about the subject of men being raped? I mean, it’s not like you’re male! That’s a man’s problem and not really one you should concern yourself with.”

Now take that statement, reverse all the gender roles, and imagine someone saying it to your boyfriend/father/brother.

Rape is not a gendered issue. It’s an issue that affects everyone. It’s about public health and safety. Here’s why.

1. Rape affects the family, spouse, friends of a victim. They are shaken by it. Their sense of security is challenged. The survivor of the assault may lash out at them – may not trust them, or may cut them out entirely. These people are affected.

2. There is no such thing as an isolated incident. Let’s remove the incendiary rape word, shall we? Let’s say I’m at work at the water cooler and Mary says, “Jesus, OG, you suck at your job.” I’m doubtful, angry, feel like I was insulted and hurt, but I’m also concerned she might be right. I go home in a bad mood, worried about my job. My significant other mentions that I forgot to change the toilet paper roll again. Later that night my roommate tells me I left my dishes in the living room. I’m distracted and worried and angry and making more mistakes, and I say, “Goddamnit! I’m not fucking bad at my job!” and stomp out of the room.

That whole ripples in the pond metaphor might be cliche’, but it’s also right. One thing sets off other things. A girl is raped, she fights with her father, her father is stressed, his job performance goes down, he has to take time off for her therapy appointments and court dates and he loses his job. He doesn’t want to blame his daughter for the loss of his job, but she’s the only target for his frustration – at best he reassures her that it’s not her fault, they’ll get by. At worst, he decides this dumb child deserved it and throws himself into getting a job angrily. Rape is not an isolated incident. It is an incident that sends shockwaves through a family, a community, and a person’s life.

3. Here’s an equation for you.

If rape can happen to men, then it is no longer a frailty of the woman. It’s that simple. If it is possible for a man to be raped, then rape is no longer a women’s issue and cannot in any way be her fault. You see, we like to make rape a gender issue, and it certainly has a metric fuckton of ties to gender issues, but it is not at it’s core. In fact, I feel pretty strongly that in order to stop rape, stop child molestation, abuse, date rape, all of those things that we redefine that all come down to the same thing… I feel that in order to stop them, we have to stop looking at it as a gender issue.

You see, when rape happens to a woman, there are a dozen little ‘hidden thinking’ messages that go through our head that are inherently associated with being female. Was she wearing a dress? Was she wearing heavy make up? Did she go home with him? Did she come to the party with a buddy? Had she had sex with him before? How many other guys has she slept with (and why do we care)?

Try this statement on:

I don’t think he was really raped. I mean hell, he sleeps with so many girls, who can say.

It sounds wrong. First off, we as a society are totally unsure of how to put “he” and “raped” in the same sentence without the “he” being the perpetrator. The myth of masculine power is far too strong and prevalent in our society. When we see the phrase “he was raped” it’s all too easy to refer back to the same ridiculous myths. Second, we don’t have the inherent expectation in men that if they sleep with lots of girls, that gives up their right to sleep with one specific girl.

But let’s talk about those myths, shall we?

Myth #1: “How? I mean like, if he didn’t want it, how’d he get it up?”

Men can get erections from many different things. Physical contact, anger, even fear. Specifically, fear is a big issue here. Fear causes blood to flow differently, and a heightened state of arousal. As well, fear can become shock, which makes the body stop allowing blood to move as quickly and easily as a self defense. It is perfectly possible for a man to have an erection while he is utterly repulsed and uninterested in sex.

Myth #2: “He’s a guy, why didn’t he fight back?”

This one is insidious, man is it ever. We’re willing to (in theory, sometimes) admit that there are times at which a woman would not want to fight back for fear of reprisal – Losing her job, being giving high risk duty in the military, threats of violence. Why is it we can’t admit that men have just as much on their backs? Taking away the possibility that he’s been raped by another man (despite that being just as likely) this is a man who all his life has been raised and taught that he should be doing everything in his power to get inside a woman – AND that any attempt to struggle with a woman and she’ll be able to press charges and scream abuse. Can you imagine being a man laying there thinking, “I don’t want this… But if I don’t want it, doesn’t that mean there’s something wrong with me? Doesn’t that make me less of a guy? Man, I can’t toss her off, she’ll get a bruise and blame this all on me if I even hint I don’t want it…”

Myth #3: “Well, it’s just another notch in his bedpost anyway.”

…try, just try and say that about a woman who’s been raped. I dare you.

Myth #4: “Calling what happens to a man rape cheapens and belittles what has happened to so many more women.”

This is the most mindnumbingly frustrating part of this whole problem. As long as rape remains a Female Problem, it is going to be ignored. As long as we are the submissive half of the social order and we are the ones with this problem, this problem is not going to be addressed. Cause man, we sure have found some other problems to address. We’ve all but cured Erectile Dysfunction with Cialis and Viagra (which hey, as it happens, can be used in rape) but we still haven’t figured out how to protect a woman from roofies.

There is no way to cheapen rape. It happens, and it’s terrible – you can’t make it less or more terrible. You can’t make it happen more or less, and refusing to acknowledge when it does happen seems just a bit more detrimental than theoretically making it “too common”.

As long as rape remains something that can’t happen to certain people, it will then follow that it can happen to others, and those others might either A. have done something to deserve it or B. be inherently okay to rape.

I’d prefer neither, thanks.


~ by oniongirl13 on January 14, 2010.

4 Responses to “The Great Gender Hypocrisy of Rape”

  1. Very, very well said.

  2. Thanks for those insights onion girl – I’ve quoted some on my blog about sexism – hope that’s ok with you.“well-it’s-just-another-notch-in-his-bedpost-anyway-”-…try-just-try-and-say-that-about-a-woman-who’s-been-raped-i-dare-you/

  3. As a male survivor of a female rapist, I wanted to thank you for this blog entry. Bit by bit, more people are beginning to understand that rape is rape, regardless of the gender of the survivor OR rapist.

  4. Hells YES! Especially to myth number four. Thank you for your brilliant insights.

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