How “rape culture” revictimizes men

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.

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5 thoughts on “How “rape culture” revictimizes men

  1. Wow. In a single post you covered the exact reasons why I do not believe in rape culture, the patriarchy, and why despite supposed alterations of their fem-centric social theories by feminists, it’s evident they don’t actually care more about male survivors of sexual abuse or rape.
    Well done, sir. +1 to everything written here.

    The only thing I’d like to point out is that it isn’t just feminists that are controlling this narrative. Unfortunately, there are sections of the manosphere that still make the claims that men/boys cannot be raped by women because “males always want sex”. As far as I can tell, they actually believe this and in discussions with them it is clear they think any sexual activity a man receives is inherently and automatically desired by him.

    Given the fact that the concept of rape culture is being upheld by not one, but two very different ideologies, do you think we’ll ever truly be rid of it to a meaningful extent?

  2. Like many feminist things, the nature of the rhetorical construct changes depending on the situation. When rape culture is usually discussed, it’s about systemic patriarchal oppression of women by men. When they want to discuss how male rapes are erased, all that stuff is quietly shoved into the metaphorical hall closet. Usually men are blamed, even thought the people who keep calling rape “violence against women” and “gendered violence” are usually women. You can even see it in the comments to this article. For example.

    Following a paragraph full of stats about male rape, the article ends with this: “It’s beyond unreasonable to talk about the seriousness of rape culture when simultaneously refusing to acknowledge that women can in fact be guilty of rape and sexual assault. As the evidence points out, men are victims more often than people realize.”

    While I agree with Ana on a lot of things, this article is written in a way that insinuates women are mostly responsible for raping men. This is untrue. Rapists, even those who rape men, are overwhelmingly male. This is a problem obviously, but blaming women isn’t really helping, since women are not generally the perpetrators of this type of crime.

    Should it be taken seriously when a women commits sexual assault? Obviously, yes. But we shouldn’t use rare instances like this one to falsely promote the idea that rape isn’t almost exclusively a crime committed by men.

    Another comment accuser the author of “sounding like an MRA”. But what do you expect from people who read a website that has Amanda Marcotte as a major contributor? They’re running around in there trying desperately to say they care about male rape without actually admitting that feminism has been neglecting it or that it contributed to the problem.

    I’ve noticed that whenever that happens, no one uses the term “violence against women”, [sarcasm]for some reason.[/sarcasm]

  3. Tarnished, I agree that feminists are not the only ones tainting this process. I focused on them because the article was about one of their theories. It is unfortunately common for men to dismiss female-on-male sexual violence. Part of this is because men are taught to treat violence against them as trivial. Part of it is because men are taught to take responsibility for their own problems. Part of it is because males do tend to show less vulnerability. Part of it is also men playing out their fantasies.

    Those are difficult enough to address without someone convoluting the conversation with theories about “male privilege” and “normalized sexual violence.”

    I do think that we can eventually get to a point where we consider sexual violence against males as wrong as we do when it is committed against females. Yet I doubt we will rid ourselves of ideology. It is too enticing.

  4. I hope so too, TS. I really do. Maybe with more blogs like yours, and people like us willing to speak against the typical barrage of misinformation, we’ll see it happen one day.

  5. Pingback: Jenni Murray Discovers Female Paedophiles | mra-uk

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