José, a reader, sent me a link to an article about a recent episode of Mad Men. The episode featured a flashback of Dan Draper as a boy. During the flashback, Draper is nursed back to health by a prostitute. Once he is well, or close to being so, she rapes him. As it is described in the Atlantic article:
Throughout most of the episode, Aimee serves as a surrogate mother for Dick; she lets him recuperate in her bed and offers him rest, comforting words, spoonfuls of warm broth. However, in their penultimate scene together, Aimee’s maternal kindness turns oddly predatory. She approaches her bed where Dick is lying weakly, fever newly broken, and asks, “Don’t you want to know what all the fuss is about? “No,” Dick replies forcefully, averting his eyes and hugging the blankets tightly against his chest as she reaches under the covers to touch him. “Stop it,” he says, clearly uncomfortable, even afraid. But Aimee doesn’t stop.
The author, Abigail Rine, points out that the episode did not receive the same response a recent Girls episode did when that show featured a “this may be rape” scene. That episode sparked numerous discussions among feminists, progressives, and pop culture analysts. The Mad Men episode spawned criticism for a rape joke told earlier in the show and a few pat-on-the-back comments.
Rine seemed surprised by the general lack of acknowledgement that what happened to Draper was rape. Yet, the lack of response is common, and honestly better than the usual “wasn’t he lucky” retort.
Women’s sexual violence against men is not often taken seriously. One either finds that people treat it like a joke, treat it as a harmless anomaly, refuse to count the act as rape, deny that it happens at all, or some combination of the above.
Rine also points out the oddity of the CDC’s definition of rape:
This says, essentially, that in order to be raped, a person must be forced into the feminine position of being penetrated, and in order to commit a rape, a person must have either a penis or a penis proxy.a gendered understanding of sexual violence, in which victimhood is linked to femininity and sexual aggression retains a thoroughly masculine profile. I can’t help but think that we should be questioning these readings of power and sexuality, rather than reinforcing them.
While Rine is quick to credit feminists for doing “important work interrogating problematic myths of female sexuality that are often used to blame rape survivors for their own victimization,” she fails to note that very work is ironically the reason why the CDC defined “being forced to penetrate” as separate from “rape.” A representative from the CDC admitted as much when asked about the different definition.
That said, there is some good news. While female-on-male rape is still treated as comical or worthy of back-slapping, more people are beginning to take these cases seriously. This comes largely from male survivors coming forward, male survivor organizations, and the complaints made by the men’s movement about the treatment of male survivors. It is has also happened despite the largely negative response from feminists at the increased acknowledgement of this issue. Yet some feminists are starting to take the issue seriously because the evidence overwhelmingly shows that women do rape men and boys and are responsible for most of the sexual violence males experience.
There is still much work to be done. I just wrote about a case in New Zealand of a woman who cannot be charged with rape because New Zealand law does not recognize women as potential rapists. There is the situation in India where feminist groups blocked legislation to including women as potential rapists. There is also the blatant sentencing double standard, in which women receive more plea deals and lighter sentences than men.
Nevertheless, the more people speak out about female-on-male rape, the more attention the issue will receive, and the more likely people’s opinions will change.