Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rape is as rape does, Part 1: Define "rape"

Thinkprogress.org recently posted a piece discussing the findings of what they call "The Largest International Study On Rape That’s Been Conducted So Far." The study itself was published in The Lancet and was titled, "Prevalence of and factors associated with non-partner rape perpetration: findings from the UN Multi-country Cross-sectional Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific." Surveys were performed over two years and six countries and 10,000+ men.

But men were only surveyed as perpetrators.

No man was asked if he'd ever been a victim of rape. No woman was asked if she had ever "'forced a [man] who was not your [husband] or [boy]friend at the time to have sex,' or if they had ever 'had sex with a [man] who was too drunk or drugged to indicate whether [he] wanted it'” [genders reversed.].
Men getting raped? Absurd, right? Only happens in prison.  Maybe during wartime. And always by other men. Women don't rape. That's the official narrative, right?

Ladies and gentlemen, it's complete bullshit.

Language and culture have a circular, chicken-and-egg relationship. The words we use for things strongly influence our perception (go read up on "framing" in politics if you don't believe me), and our culture in turn dictates how we talk about things. Ask most people what rape is, and they'll say, "sex without consent."  What many people don't know is that rape is, in many jurisdictions and until only very recently by the FBI itself, defined as a man forcibly penetrating a woman. And culturally, that's how we typically think of rape. Ask someone what they picture, and it's generally a variation on a woman getting jumped by a man in a ski mask on her way to her car in a dark parking garage late at night.  Feminists claim that we live in a "rape culture," that we have rigid, almost scripted ideas of what rape is, and anything that doesn't fit into that isn't taken seriously. That women are second-guessed and blamed for their own assaults. That we have a serious problem in how our culture encourages women to send mixed messages on sex and blur the line between yes and no. And I agree that it's shameful that there was even a question in anyone's mind whether this is rape. But I think it's equally shameful that no one considers this rape. Or this. Or this. Or this.

What feminists do not talk about-- or at least, not in this context-- is the serious problem in how our culture depicts men as horny poonhounds, in a constant state of sexual availability, with certain preferences, naturally, but unwilling to turn down nookie under any circumstances. This idea, when it comes up, is invariably tied to themes of toxic masculinity, and criticizes the cultural pressure on men to "score," and how objectifying and predatory this is to women. What is missed is how predatory it is to men; that the logical conclusion is that it's impossible for a woman to rape a man because men are always willing, and hey, can't rape the willing. And women are too physically weak, too mild, too caring, too empathetic-- and above all, just too damned oppressed-- to commit such a heinous act.

Oh, really?

Next up: Part 2: Lady Rapist 101