I've been having an interesting discussion with artist M.K. Hajdin on male rape survivors. She linked to a blog commentary by Wayne Myers – On Being A Male Rape Survivor. Read Wayne's commentary. You'll find it interesting and I'm always happy to see another male survivor find his voice. We don't all have to agree all the time, but we really do need to speak out more.
Hajdin had this to say about male rape survivors after reading Wayne's commentary:
I confess I was feeling apprehensive when I began to read. I was waiting for the inevitable “What About The Menz?” moment. Thankfully, this guy gets it. He tells his story while acknowledging that the vast majority of rape is male-on-female, and doesn’t try to persuade us that his experience was worse than those of female victims.
I posted this in reponse to her comments:
I am a male rape survivor. No one, male OR female has any business claiming their rape is worse than anyone else’s experience. I’ve never seen any male rape survivors make such claims in the past so I find it odd that this is being praised as if it rare for a male rape survivor to care about his sister’s pain.
It isn’t male survivors claiming that their rapes are worse. The problem is people who have NOT been raped trying to speak for those of us who have been raped whether male OR female. If you haven’t experienced it, you really don’t know as much about it as you think.
Bizarrely, she completely missed my very obvious point in her response while insinuating that disagreement = incivility:
Because you’re a rape victim and deserve support for it, I’m going to approve your comment, provisionally.
I’m not sure what part of my post you had a problem with, but you seem to be drawing false conclusions about what I said.
Be aware that this is a feminist blog. As the proprietor of such, I don’t have much patience for men who come around mansplaining, picking fights, or showing any other kind of hostility. Victim or not, you will be civil, or you will be gone.
It is interesting that she pointed out it was a feminist blog, while engaging in childish and sexist terminology such as "mansplaining" – which is a term that serious, mature feminists seem to be able to avoid using quite easily while making their contributions to the equality and civil liberties movements. I have known many feminists both professionally and personally. I work with them on issues of shared interest. I read their blogs. I comment on them. Sometimes I link to them. None of them use sexist language to fight sexism. They get it. Really, feminist blogs are not new to me. I've been commenting on feminist blogs longer than most of the more arrogant, louder and brasher internet feminists have been out of high school. I really don't need a lecture on what is and isn't a feminist blog as if I've stumbled into a superior being who must be appeased for the sake of the scared villagers. Attaching the word "feminist" to something doesn't automatically make it an authority on anything nor does it grant said entity magical protections from criticism or disagreement. I'm a civil libertarian and I have been involved in many high profile campaigns to include some issues that were also taken up by many feminists. I've got my own ideological and political battle scars, which is more than most people who talk down their noses on ideological blogs of any persuasion can truthfully claim.
I was intrigued by her response though, and also a little baffled, so I took the time to respond:
Hello, thanks for approving the comment. I took issue solely with the implication that male survivors think their rapes are worse than what happens to female survivors. That is how I read this statement: “doesn’t try to persuade us that his experience was worse than those of female victims”. I don’t see that as something that male survivors spend their time doing.
That is something I see OTHERS doing sometimes while talking about us and our experiences. That is what I took issue with in your posting. As a male survivor, I encounter such themes often and a LOT of people regardless of ideology and gender are constantly putting words into our mouths or defining our experiences for us. It just gets really, really old. If I have misinterpreted your meaning then I apologize.
I believe I have been civil. I’ve just disagreed with that implication. I realize that this is a feminist blog and that this is your space. I’ve been an online publisher for over 15 years with the requisite death threats, denial of service attacks and outright character assassinations to go along with it. I get how content controls work and I exercise the same type on my own pubs. A little more about me so you’ll know what I am about and what I stand for as a person. I’m a long-time, established civil liberties activist who cut my teeth on ending Bob Jones University’s ban on interracial dating/marriages and expanded into many other areas of advocacy over the years.
I’m also a member of the RAINN Speakers’ Bureau and a trainer/speaker for my state’s survivor caucus and state-wide umbrella organization for sexual violence issues. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing someone who has suffered sexual or domestic violence find their voice after years and begin to vocalize their fears, anger and rage in whatever form they deem appropriate.
In her next response to me, she decided it was time to make some generalizations about male rape survivors:
My statement about males was based on the fact that they, having male privilege as they do (even when they are victims) tend to assume their experiences are more important than women’s.
My own experience on other feminist blogs has confirmed this. There’ll be a lot of women talking about some issue, and a dude will show up and talk about how the issue affected him, and all the attention will shift to the dude. I don’t want this happening on my blog. Some feminist blogs solve the problem by banning males altogether, but I don’t want to go that far unless I have to.
So the lack of “what about the menz?” focus in the male-rape post I linked to was important, both for me personally and for the other women who read my site. They will know that this story doesn’t try to diminish what happens to women, as so many other male-written pieces do.
I appreciate your civil response and your work on behalf of victims.
I have to disagree with the generalization that male survivors assume their experiences are more important than those of female survivors. I know far too many who never tell anyone – for fear of being told their experiences were not important – at all. Or, because they have already been told that their traumas are lesser, unimportant or worse – deserved. Many male survivors feel guilty for even feeling bad about what happened to them – let alone EVER saying anything to anyone outside of a therapist's office, when they can even muster the courage or resources to get that far.
What SOME male survivors post on feminist blogs is hardly representative of the male survivor population at large. Further, I've read plenty of feminist blogs over the years and I've seen plenty of male survivors who actually downplayed their traumas, rather than believing they were even important, let alone MORE important. Hell, I've even seen some feminists attack other feminists for bothering to mention us at all on their own blogs. Really. REALLY.
It boggles the mind.
As a group, we don't feel our experiences are more important. We don't speak as a group, nor do we think as a group – same as female survivors. We are individuals with our own experiences and beliefs and personalities and baggage – just like feminists and redheads and people who actually pay money to see Pauly Shore movies or anyone else regardless of what arbitrary distinctions can be made to create such a grouping. How does it fight sexism to promote generalizations about a group of individuals based solely on their gender and some cherry-picked observations?
I waited over 18 years to even acknowledge what happened to me, while spending that time serving as a secondary survivor to another person. I'd say that was the exact opposite of believing that my experience is more important. I believe my own experience is just AS important, not more important. There is more than a sublte difference in the two concepts. We all deserve the right to heal and express our frustrations and challenges without being made to feel guilty or expected to hold our tongues in order to make disinterested third parties happy.
I'm really, fucking really, getting annoyed with people who believe that they can speak for all male or female survivors, constantly put words in our mouths, thoughts in our brains, co-opt our traumas for their exploitative agendas and then tell us to shut the fuck up unless we agree to their terms when we discuss our own experiences – even on our own blogs or in survivor spaces. Clearly, unless we make it all about Teh Womynz All Teh Timez – even when breaking our own silences – male survivors are still viewed by some as nothing but a thug monolith oppressing women – even when we were raped or sexually abused by a woman.
I truly never knew that talking about my own experience honestly and vulnerably – even on my own blog or in response to articles about male survivors – was somehow preventing female survivors from healing or was making their lives worse. I missed the memo that the only survivors who are important are those with vaginas. Or maybe I deleted it when the Gender Kops were distributing it. I think I put them on the spam blacklist a while ago. Funny thing though, the female survivors I know well truly reject this form of collectivist and sexist thinking.
Perhaps it is time for those who are interested in ending sexual violence to actually start listening to those of us – male and female – who have lived it. The realities of our experiences are far more complex than one would think. Simply visiting some feminist blogs and holding those observations as truly representative of the entire world is hardly objective, nor is it fair to the hundreds of millions of female and male survivors who don't frequent those circles of the internet (which is the overwhelming vast majority).
Really, the world of sexual violence advocacy and the survivor community is a fuckload bigger and far more diverse than a few feminist blogs might have you believe. While SOME internet feminists are very involved in actual survivor advocacy and prevention efforts (beyond just talking loudly on the internet), they are hardly the vast majority of individuals involved in this work, nor are they the sole authorities on the subject. The world is far more complex and wonderful and scary and invalidating and confusing and yet still more worthwhile than a person can truly comprehend from reading a few thousand characters lit up on a monitor on a narrowly selected reading list.
James Landrith is a healing rape survivor, public speaker (RAINN and VSDVAA) on sexual violence and civil liberties, internationally syndicated blogger, civil liberties activist and the notorious editor and publisher of The Multiracial Activist (ISSN: 1552-3446) and The Abolitionist Examiner (ISSN: 1552-2881). Landrith can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at his personal website/blog.