Whenever feminists talk about “rape culture” and male victims, I am reminded of a theory from the TV series Full Metal Alchemist called “equivalent exchange.” According to the theory, “Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return… To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.” It seems that every time feminists talk about “rape culture,” they must sacrifice something to add credibility to their theory, and that tends to be male victims. In order for their theory to work, feminists must deny, ignore, or downplay sexual violence against men and boys.
It is a curious thing because it makes no logical sense. Just because one group experiences something does not mean another group cannot experience the same thing. Yet that is the argument that Soraya Chemaly makes in her article about “rape culture.” She defines “rape culture” as, “sexual violence—overwhelmingly against girls and women—tolerated, excused and normalized through attitudes, norms, practices, and media,” which is a modified version of the definition given on the Wikipedia page she cites.
Yet Chemaly’s definition is so broad that anything that does not condemn sexual violence against women could be proof of “rape culture.” Indeed, if we follow her logic, we live in a “thug culture”, “mugging culture”, “drunk culture”, “murder culture” and so on. Our society tends to treat violence in an “out of sight, out of mind” way. We look for ways to hold people accountable for things that happen to them partly out of cultural norms, partly to shut those people up, and partly to continue our collective myth that we control what happens to us.
However, Chemaly’s point because she quickly shifts from proving that “rape culture” exists to arguing that feminists have nothing to do with the misandry men and male survivors face. She states:
That does NOT mean that all men are rapists. The only people who think all men are rapists are, well, rapists. However, ninety-nine percent of the perpetrators of single offender sexual assault crimes, according to the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, are men, including boys being sexually abused. Pointing this out is not a feminist attempt to eradicate and undermine men and masculinity. It’s explaining the degree with which the crime can genuinely be seen as gender-based and why I think it’s important that individual stories be told in the context of rape as part of a larger dynamic of power.
She claims that the only people who think all men are rapists are rapists, but that is easy to disprove. It appears that not only do plenty of feminists think all men are rapists or potential rapists, but they will go to great lengths to defend that sexist argument. Yet even as Chemaly argues that “only rapists think all men are rapists,” she throws out the typical feminist “but only men commit rape” argument. She cites the NCVS, claiming that 99 percent of perpetrators of sexual violence are male, yet neither the page she linked to, the press release, or the NCVS 2010 report lists that number. The report does not even breakdown sexual violence by the perpetrator’s sex.
Feminists simply made the number up.
Specifically, they made it up to support their claim that sexual violence is something only men do to only women. And the only reason feminists frame sexual violence in that manner is because feminists define rape as an extension of men’s oppression of women. Anything challenging those views, such as a high rate of female-on-male rape, causes the “rape culture” theory to collapse.
Chemaly tries to back out of her obvious implication that women never rape, however, she immediately goes on to state:
However, when rape comes up in discussion, there is often a reflexive pointing out that women rape, too, as in this Women Rape, Too post. Saying that sexual violence affects girls and women disproportionately does not mean that boys’ and men’s experiences of assault and rape are in any way less relevant or horrific. In statistical terms, however, right now, while data on female sexual assault is hard to gather and verify for reasons listed below, it’s exactly like pointing out that some men get breast cancer every time the subject of women’s breast cancer fatalities comes up.
My article was in response to the claim that women rarely rape boys. That is factually untrue, and I cited sources proving that. According to several studies, including the CDC report Chemaly mentions, women commit between 40 percent to 70 percent of the sexual violence against males. However, Chemaly missed my point: this is the rate women’s sexual violence against males. She, like many feminists, ignores that men and women may experience different types of sexual violence committed by different people. There is no rule that if a man gets raped, that means no women got raped. Violence does not work like that.
Chemaly’s comparing sexual violence against males to male breast cancer is just sloppy and inaccurate in terms of scope and effect, and insulting to male survivors. Likewise, complaining about the media coverage of high-profile cases is at best petulant. Of course news outlets will cover cases involving dozens or hundreds of boys whose abuse was covered up by a major religious organization. However, the majority of news reports about sexual violence involve female victims.
Chemaly goes on to state:
The CDC study revealed that boys are twice as likely to be raped as children – 28% of male rape victims reported being raped between the ages of 6-10, after which the incidence of assaults drops off, versus 12% of girls, for whom the incidence peaks in their teens through twenties, but virtually never ends.
Yet she misses that the CDC study relies on self-reports conducted by phone with mostly middle-aged people. Many men, particularly those in or over their 40s, do not talk about their abuse or even call what happened to them abuse. The questions the interviewers, however, frame the acts as something a person did not want to happen. It is possible that some men withheld information because they did not want to come across as weak or because they did not think they were forced to do something. The CDC researchers did not factor this in or even mention how social norms could affect the responses they got.
That makes Chemaly’s follow-up comment all the more curious:
No reliable source, including RAINN, The Department of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control, Advocates for Youth among others, has any substantive and quantitatively sound information regarding the incidence of single offender female perpetrators of abuse. This isn’t because of a boy hating, man-bashing feminist conspiracy. It’s because a) our culture doesn’t like admitting male weakness, b) it is rarely reported and/or c) it is actually comparatively rare. Interestingly, the breakdown for multiple offender crimes is different: 59% male, 12.9% female and 22.9% male/female combined.
If you admittedly do not know how often women rape, how can you claim that they rarely do it? The lack of reliable data does potentially come from the first two items Chemaly listed, and it also comes from something else: researchers refusing to study female perpetrators, which usually occurs because feminists, who often run the departments who conduct such studies, oppose any sexual violence research that is not focused on female victimization. There is no feminist conspiracy, only a clear attempt by feminists to deny, ignore, and downplay male victimization and female rapists.
Ironically, Chemaly counts the very things she does in her article as examples of how male victims are marginalized. She employs the gender stereotype that rape is something that “vastly disproportionately affects women,” which is part of the reason why the Advocates for Youths stated, “Male victimization is particularly hard to estimate due to beliefs that only girls can be abused…” That view is much older than feminism, yet feminists certainly promote promote it. They simply try to wrap in carefully chosen statistics.
Women’s sexual violence against children is underreported because of older social norms, but also because feminists argue that women are the victims, not the rapists. That views makes its way into law enforcement and child services so that no one ever asks if women commit rape, and when they find cases, they accuse the men of making women do it.
And yes, sometimes society does treat male sexuality as violent, but only feminists treat it as inherently violent and treat all men as suspicious. That is what led to the recent kerfuffle on GMP. It even happened during GMP’s week-long discussion about the Penn State case. Feminist writers blamed male sexuality for what Jerry Sandusky allegedly did, as if all men want rape boys.
Yet the tragedy is how Chemaly misses the problems men and boys face. She states:
It’s hard to step back from the horror of rape, particularly the rape of children, to consider the larger context in which it happens, especially in a forum dedicated to the primacy of individual stories and experiences. There is a qualitative difference between saying men rape women and women rape men and that difference gets eliminated when you tell individual stories without context.
That reads strikingly like a feminist denial that boys and men face any threat from rape and that we ought not talk about it because it might make people think it sexual violence against males is just as bad as sexual violence against females.
Male-on-female rape is part of a larger system of violence and oppression—this is a fundamental aspect of rape theory. Boys and men don’t have to think about being the victims of rape on a regular basis. […] Rape—the threat of it, the frequency of it, the gendered reality of it—is one of a long list of ways that women are controlled in private and public spaces.
Here is the thing: the reason men do not openly worry about sexual violence, or any violence, is because our culture tells men that they should be able to fend for themselves. They are not allowed to be afraid, and admitting that they worry about being attacked, even if going through a dangerous place, in tantamount to giving up their masculinity. Should anything happen, they may be unwilling to tell anyone because they have to maintain their image.
One would think a person so concerned with gender issues would know how this would impact men’s behavior. But Chemaly, like many feminists, ignores it and treats men as if nothing bad ever happens to them. One cannot get anymore dismissive than that, but Chemaly tries:
A lot of the debate over rape culture theory that I’ve read here hinges on its being filtered through the lens of individual stories instead of the other way round. As a result it ends up being misrepresented as an individual man-bad/perpetrator, woman-good/victim argument.
Of course the debates hinge of individual stories. We are talking about a broad theory that applies to individual people’s lives. To tell someone that this thing is true for them and expect them not to check is inane. The problem is not the individual stories, but dogmatic theories like “rape culture.” When one relies on dogma and doctrine, one loses objectivity. That is how you get powerfully stupid statements like, “Only men can stop rape.”
That kind of utter disrespect for male victims enables abusers and rapists. It empowers them. Nothing pleases a person who wants to get away with a crime more than people saying that what they did either never happened, is not a problem, or that only the victims can stop the crime.
That is true irony the “rape culture” theory. In talking about female victims, feminist marginalize male victims, and hold them responsible for not only their own assaults but also solely responsible as males for stopping all rape. Feminists do the very thing they are fighting against, and they have the gall to justify it.
There is a reason why I do not discuss my experiences with feminists, and Chemaly’s article shows why.