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The cultural dismissal of women perpetrators of rape and their victims
“I’ll kill your sister”
“If you tell anyone, you’ll be kicked out of school”
“If you tell your parents, we will beat you up”
“If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you”
The above quotes sound like sound bites from female survivors of rape. They often are, except this time the above quotes have been copied from male survivors featured in Grace Brown’s “Project Unbreakable” – an online platform that strives to “increase awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault and encourage the act of healing”.
Rape against men by other men or women is something that is rarely spoken about in Australian society and when it is spoken about – it is dismissed, ridiculed and disregarded as a delusion by the male survivor. A damaging response to a horrific crime. Still in today’s society, we have a cultural expectation that men can’t or shouldn’t say no to sex or sexual contact from anyone (particularly women) nor can they control themselves in when in the presence of another person (again particularly women).
As a cisgendered woman, I was born into a body where sexual violence is expected, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if I was raped. Rape against women happens all the time and while some people take the victim blaming road, our culture tends to be sympathetic towards female survivors. There are campaigns and movements against it – Slut Walk, Take Back the Night featuring guest speakers and protests. Trained counselors sit on hot lines waiting for calls, doctors do rape kits as a routine procedure – the world knows and fights against violence against women.
Men not so much. Men have a body where the fallacy is told that they can’t say no to sexual contact- at all. They can’t or shouldn’t say no short skirts, jeans or to women walking past minding their own business. To the point that female survivors get victim blamed into thinking it was their fault because of the fallacy that men just can’t say no or can’t control themselves. Men have a body where it’s expected they’ll perpetrate sexual violence against women – not be survivors of it. Counselors aren’t trained for male survivors and if they are – they rarely encounter them due to lack of incident reporting, family members may swallow the fallacy it can’t happen. Society tells them, that they should want it or are gay if they don’t and if they can’t fight off a male abuser – they’re weak.
It’s a horrible thing to tell young boys and men that they are expected to want and have sex all the time and that they are regarded as nothing more than lower life forms who can’t control themselves in the presence of other people. Which is than used as a weapon to dismiss acts of violence against women anyway.
That is a very harsh sense of loneliness, when the world disregards your experiences and no-one is trained to help you process what you have experienced.
It’s insulting, damaging and disgusting and disregards male victims of rape and sexual assault. The statistics of male sexual assault would be much higher if men were taken seriously and not disregarded. Add in the shame of being a physically larger male who is constantly told they should be stronger than women, the shame of being violated, the confusion of not wanting it but still having biological responses to being stimulated, being told by society that it can’t happen to you or that you were wrong and that you should have liked it because “all men like sexual contact” or being accused of being gay if you didn’t like it. Combine all these things and you get a recipe for underreported sexual assaults against men.
Here’s a newsflash that people can’t seem to grasp: Plenty of female rape victims get wet or orgasm. It’s a biological response to being stimulated. Same applies to male victims. If someone stimulates an area full of nerve endings, your body is going to respond – whether you want it or not. Why would a man report it? We can’t get women to report rape, let alone men.
This also ties into the fallacy that women can’t rape – therefore men and women cannot be survivors of female perpetrated rape and abuse. Women are still thought of as submissive people who can’t harm anyone because most of us aren’t as physically strong as men or because people believe women can’t be aggressive. We still live in an age where women are portrayed as sexy but are shamed for being sexual beings therefore encouraging the fallacy that women aren’t sexual beings, where out-dated ideas of rape still exist and where people can‘t fathom that women can be predators.
This sets a dangerous precedence in regards to rape by women – if society continues to ignore the victims of rape by women (men, women and children), they’re directly contributing to enabling these predators to continue abusing their victims. Suzana Flores, a clinical psychologist in this article by Autostraddle, recalls the three main responses to victims of rape by women (especially in the case of female victims)
“The three main implications are ‘Women are too weak to harm someone,’ ‘Lesbian rape is hot and it’s harmless. It’s not real.’ and ‘All rapists are men.”
Where does that leave the victims? Alone and retraumatized over and over from being told that what happened to them wasn’t real. Often being subjected to comments like the ones left on this article:
“It wasn’t rape…. they got caught, he bragged or someone told on them, then someone started quoting scripture to him, (and the age of consent laws) and then it became rape. What 13 year old boy wasn’t dreaming about shagging a 18 year old who would show him the ropes? Lol”
“The boy tried to stop, but Steiner forced him to have sex.” HA HA, yeah right! He bragged about it to his buddies and got caught!”
“I agree. It’s kinda physically impossible for a woman to rape a man. He must of got caught or somebody told on him and he got in trouble”
Note: The above comments were made by both men and women.
I do like this comment from a man, upset by the comments dismissing an erection as consent:
“To all you people talking about “A man only gets an erection when he wants to have sex and therefore can’t be raped.” You’re idiots. Men get erections from stimulation regardless of interest in a person. Sweet Jesus a man can get an erection from a spinal cord injury. So by your logic his back isn’t really broken, he just wants you to jump on his dick and ride.”
Unfortunately rape by women and male/female as victims is rarely talked about and if it is talked about – it’s either dismissed or someone will interject with how women are raped at a greater rate by men and we should be focusing on that first and foremost. I disagree that we should be focusing on women as rape victims first and foremost – I believe we should be looking at all victims of all forms of rape first and foremost so we don’t leave victims in the dust.
Lastly – contrary to some individuals opinions – admitting that women can be rapists doesn’t devalue the fact women can be victims. Likewise admitting men can be victims doesn’t devalue the fact they can be rapists.
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