Don Draper Was Raped
I can't help but think that we should be questioning these readings of power and sexuality, rather than reinforcing them.
The CDC, however, does not ascribe to my basic definition of rape as being made to have sex against one's will. They have placed "made to penetrate" in its own category, limiting the label of rape to being penetrated unwillingly. Using this definition, they cite the total number of male rape victims as closer to 1 in 71 men, or 1.4 percent. I will certainly admit that being penetrated has the potential to be more physically injurious than being forced to penetrate, but I'm not sure that justifies the exclusive definition, as it doesn't reflect how our cultural understandings of rape have evolved. The litmus test for rape is now widely accepted to be consent, not physical trauma.
Although it is certainly a step forward that organizations like the CDC are beginning to collect data about male victims of sexual violence, I am still somewhat troubled by the underlying implications of their terminology.
The CDC's definition of rape (which is also the one now used by the FBI to compile statistics) as limited to being penetrated rests on the assumption that only feminine bodies are raped, and, conversely, only masculine bodies commit 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. To me, this seems to rely upon 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.
Putting aside the definition of rape specifically, the NIPSVS does explicitly highlight being "made to penetrate" as a form of sexual violence–and an apparently prevalent one at that. Why, then, when we see this kind of victimization portrayed on screen, is it read as harmless fun, or even romanticized as a rite of passage?
The sugarcoating of the Mad Men encounter, as well as the survivor accounts onThe Good Men Project, highlight how troubling gender myths influence our awareness of sexual violence and often render male victims invisible. In our culture, male sexuality is overwhelmingly depicted as powerful, dominant, invulnerable, and sexually insatiable. Our more cartoonish notions of gender, found everywhere from deodorant commercials to bromantic comedies, perpetuate the idea that men are little more than walking boners, always up for sex. And, even though science has demonstrated otherwise, the misconception that an erection implies consent–that a man, in fact, can't penetrate unwillingly–is still commonplace.
Feminists have done important work interrogating problematic myths of female sexuality that are often used to blame rape survivors for their own victimization. But, as these responses to the Mad Men scene demonstrate, parallel myths that obfuscate male victims remain entrenched. The underlying problem here is that we too easily lapse into gender scripts instead of seeing people as complex human beings. Neither sex has a complete monopoly on agency, consent, vulnerability–or even power.