A recent article on the Raw Story argues that “rape culture” victims men. Ana Kasparian stated in her piece:
There is a lot of talk about rape culture and its disastrous impact on society. It’s always used to describe how acts of sexual violence get a pass, with women being the primary victims of male entitlement. But the perpetrators in the two stories detailed above were women, and society has proven over and over again that when a women is guilty of sexually assaulting or raping a victim, it’s not to be taken as seriously.
There are endless examples. When an attractive female school teacher rapes one of her underage male students, the focus of the story shifts from the crime committed to the attractiveness of the rapist. Assumptions are usually made about the male student “wanting it.” But if the genders were flipped, and talking heads claimed that a high school girl “wanted” to have sex with her much older male teacher, everyone would justifiably flip out.
The dismissive attitude regarding male rape isn’t only objectionable, it’s also extremely harmful because it leads to the unjustified narrative that men can’t be raped. They can certainly be victimized, and it’s actually happening with shocking frequency.
It is refreshing to see feminists acknowledging male victimization. Ten years ago, feminists dismissed the kinds of the statistics Kasparian lists in her article as pure men’s rights nonsense. Now feminists take the statistics more seriously, although it appears that they do so less out of concern for male victims than out of a desire to control the narrative.
This is obvious in Kasparian’s article, and two things stand out to me.
One, the author fails to address her own premise. She states that she wants to discuss “rape culture” (I will explain in a moment why I put the phrase in quotes), yet does not get to the point until the final paragraph. She never states what makes her think these incidents fit within the theory. I realize the article was written for an audience that already accepts the theory without question, however, I consider it bad form for the author to fail to explain the connection.
Two, the article is a fine example of the flaw the “rape culture” theory. What happens to male victims is not an instance of people supporting sexual violence against them. It is an instance of people not considering it to be sexual violence. Much of the reasoning behind why people do not think women can rape men stems from the notion that men always want sex from women, so any sex is good (unless the women is considered unattractive).
The issue is actually an assumption about male sexuality, masculinity, and women’s ability to commit violence. People think that males can either prevent the assault from happening, they must enjoy it, or they get something else out of it (job, money, toys, etc.). People also assume that women lack the malice and aggression typically associated with men, and therefore cannot really hurt any male. All the other stigmas are simply justifications for those views (with the exception feminist stigmas, which stem from the ideology).
This is part of the reason why I disagree with the notion of “rape culture.” The other reason is the logic behind the theory. As the theory goes, “rape culture” stems from the patriarchal oppression of women. All males contribute to and participate in said oppression. They also benefit from said oppression and all acts resulting from it. As a result, all males, regardless of their social status, have privilege over women and benefit at women’s expense.
Following this logic, the 11-year-old boy who Jade Hatt raped has male privilege. Not only is he privileged over Hatt, but he is privileged at her expense. Specifically, he was privileged over her as she raped him. In addition, the boy contributes to the cultural norms that made it possible for Hatt to rape him, from which he also benefits. In short, he benefits from his own rape, which is really an act of misogyny, at his rapist’s expense.
Even as someone who holds himself responsible for his childhood experiences, I find this logic bizarre, sexist, victim-blaming, and wildly ignorant of male victims’ experiences.
This is why I think it is so important not to apply these kinds of theories to people’s experiences. One cannot start with a premise and simply pick the evidence that fits it. One must look at the situation for what it is. In this case, it is really our assumptions about male sexuality and women’s capacity for violence, or lack thereof, that leads to the idea that women cannot rape men or boys. We must change that, and if we do many of the excuses will go away.
The rest will remain because it is our tendency as humans to find ways to mitigate the horrors of world by insisting that the victims of those acts could have done something to avoid or prevent them. This way we do not have to deal with the horrors or the victims.
Resting on a convoluted theory like “rape culture” only results in us missing the reality of the situation, as Kasparian did. We will say these acts of sexual violence against men fall under the theory, but we will lack any ability to actually explain how that is true. We will also end up defending a sexist theory that victim-blames male victims while attempting to co-opt their experiences. Male victims deserve better than that.