When faced with this comment:
Thank you. Thank you so much. I am genderqueer and was raped 4 years ago. And I have never had my experience validated before in anything I have heard. I have been mis-gendered, mis-believed, and mis-treated in every step of my healing process by law enforcement, therapists, other feminists and my own friends.
what is the right response?
That is difficult to say. The politically correct nuance of a concept like “genderqueer” needs too much explanation. Yet certainly one can say that the best response is not this:
Rape is absolutely a gendered crime. This is true of how it plays out in the real world, and of our concept of rape – both the act and idea of rape are used to perpetuate a patriarchal gender hierarchy. Violence in general is function and gendered, as Eesha Pandit made clear in her powerful theory of violence. We know sexual violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women.
The “rape is a gendered crime” is a very common feminist refrain, and it is also a very untrue refrain. The reality is that we have no idea how often rape occurs because male victims, gay victims, transgender victims, and victims of female rapists do not often report their assaults. All we can go on are police reports, which are hardly accurate counts of the rate of rape, or studies, which comes with a host of issues if the studies are biased or the methodology questionable.
Despite that, some recent studies suggest that the rate of rape between women and men is closer than people think. The current accepted rate of sexual abuse against boys is 1 in 6, and most researchers admit that rate is a low estimate. When it comes to prison rape, males make up the majority of the victims and face the most violent instances of rape. With military rape, we have no concrete numbers, however, the rate is potentially very high. The same is true of child rape cases like that of the Catholic Church. The simple truth is that there are more male victims than realize.
However, that reality does not fit in with the “rape is a gendered crime” trope, as the Feministing blogger noted:
Because our idea of sexual violence is gendered in such an essentialist way, we don’t actually have a broad picture of the gendered ways these crimes play out in the real world. This is part of how the gender binary works. It sets up two boxes: one for the people in power – men – and one for the people to oppress – women. Anyone who doesn’t fit our culture’s narrow definitions for man or woman, and anyone who isn’t a man or a woman, falls outside, where it’s difficult to even make people recognize our humanity, let alone our experiences of oppression.
Let us be clear: the “gender binary” does not set up two boxes of the oppressors = men and the oppressed = women; that is feminist ideology. However, that ideological perspective–the oppressed and the oppressor, the victim and the abuser–does cause problems for anyone who does not fit the stereotype of who the victim and abuser should be. That is a real problem that many victims of abuse face, ironically more often from feminists than from any other group. Again, the blogger agrees with this:
Sadly, feminists end up perpetuating this exclusion when we talk about victims only as women and perpetrators only as men.
Rape is absolutely a gendered crime, but the act of rape itself doesn’t necessarily follow those rules.
The “crime” of rape and the “act” of rape describe the same event. What is being discussed is not the specific nature of the act, but to whom it is committed against. Otherwise, there would be no point in saying it is a “gendered crime”. To try to parse something very simple as something nuanced makes no logical sense. And again, the blogger realized this and tried to explain it:
We need to be able to hold an understanding of rape as a genderless act at the same time that we recognize it as embedded in a gendered culture of violence. No one said feminism was easy.
No, no one said feminism was easy, yet no one said it made much sense either. There is no way to hold an understanding that rape is a genderless act while claiming it is a gendered crime that happens because a “gendered culture of violence”. What the blogger is really trying to argue is “rape can happen to anyone, but it mostly only happens to women”, yet that argument falls flat because the blogger, despite trying to acknowledge other types of victims, keeps claiming that rape only happens to one group of people. That is how one ends up with statements like this:
Given how overwhelmingly gendered sexual violence is, it’s easy and understandable to slip into essentialist language when talking about the issue, to paint all victims as women and all perpetrators as men. By missing parts of the reality, we’ve left space for folks like Men’s Rights Activists to fill. Obviously, the feminist take on rape has much more to do with reality than the MRA take. But when you’ve got one side going “what about the menz!” and another side responding “but victims are overwhelmingly women!” you’re having the wrong conversation. As feminists, we need to find ways to do this work that serve everyone who’s been targeted with sexual violence.
The reason why there is a space for men’s rights activists to fill is because feminists as a group only acknowledge female rape victims and deliberately try to shut down any support services for or discussion of male, gay, and transgender victims. The feminist take on rape has as much to do with reality as the concept of original sin. Many feminists may think they are dealing with reality, but in truth they are dealing with self-deluding rhetoric.
However, the blogger has a point that the “men are victims, too!” and the “but victims are overwhelmingly women!” arguments hurt what little conversation we have about this issue. Yet that makes it all the more ironic that the blogger kept saying “rape is a gendered crime” throughout the piece. How can you find ways to help everyone who suffers sexual violence if you keep saying they are never really victims?
You cannot. All you do by pushing that argument is further alienate those and lead to situations where rape centers, domestic violence shelters, and other support services simply ignore anyone who is not a straight, non-trans woman. Unfortunately, despite the blogger’s best intentions, that is precisely what the blogger does.