Victim-Blaming from the Male Survivor Perspective
Also published at The Good Men Project as Male Rape Survivors and Victim-Blaming
There is a lot of talk about victim-blaming, shaming and denial whenever the topic of rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse is discussed. No gender identification or age demographic is free from this mindset. Quite often, people don't even realize that they are engaging in such practices. Some MRAs do it. Some feminists do it. Some human rights activists do it. Some Christians do it. Some Jews do it. Some Muslims do it. Some athiests do it. Some agnostics do it. Some Republicans do it. Some Democrats do it. Some Libertarians do it.
Some people, in general, do it.
While there is understandably a good deal of discussion surrounding how victim-blaming affects female rape survivors, many people are quick to dismiss the same when it affects male rape survivors. In some cases, well-meaning people will go so far as to co-opt the traumas of one gender to highlight a point about another gender in a very dismissive or minimizing manner. Periodically, a blogger will post a commentary that runs something to the effect of "see, when it happens to teh menz, it is always taken seriously, but never when it happens to women." While I understand such pieces are meant to highlight the horrible nature of victim-blaming toward female rape survivors, the end result is that they have used a traumatic experience from one rape survivor to make the case that other rape survivors have it worse based solely on gender.
Rather than call out specific people who engage in such insensitive and hurtful practices, I will instead take some time to explore some key forms of victim-blaming that are often aimed at men. Please bear in mind that most of these have a parallel form that is directed at female rape survivors. I am not saying that only men deal with these forms of victim-blaming. Not at all. On the contrary, and unlike many who co-opt our experiences to make the false claim that only women suffer victim-blaming, I am saying such vile practices are ALSO directed at men, not SOLELY at men.
Men Can't Be Raped: This one is used by the densest of the dense without regard to gender. I've seen men AND women spout this nugget of wisdom on more than one occasion. Even if we take the most conservative estimates at face value, in the U.S. alone, that leaves nearly 3 MILLION male rape survivors.
Erections = Consent aka can't rape a wet noodle: Anyone spouting this nonsense clearly failed biology. Erections can be forced quite easily and unexpectedly. Many men can attest to embarrassing incidents that involved the appearance of an unwanted erection. A simple touch can result in involuntary stimulation. While some men may have difficulty maintaining an erection after consuming several alcoholic drinks, this is hardly universal. Further, most healthy men experience erections while asleep and often upon waking up.
Contrary to the science and personal experiences of many male rape survivors, there are plenty of people who simply cannot grasp the concept of an involuntary erection. It is almost understandable that SO MANY women believe this nonsense to the degree that some will outright mock male survivors with this myth. They don't have penises and as a result, this must all seem so simple in their heads. Really, I understand that. However, there are also a large number of morons who have no clue how their own penises work and just LOVE to broadcast that ignorance when they come across stories about male rape survivors. (sigh)
Men are Strong aka He Should Have Fought Back: This one is actually quite common. While men are not asked what they were wearing, their physical strength and perceived ability to fight back are frequently used to invalidate. There is a ridiculous assumption that all men have the mad martial arts skills of Bruce Lee, tenacity of Charles Bronson in a Death Wish movie, and incredible calm of Clint Eastwood portraying Dirty Harry. Apparently, we are trained in hand to hand combat, weapons mastery, and How To Be Macho from birth. It is quite common for women AND men to freeze during a violent encounter. Quite often, the encounter is over without a single blow placed. Further, predators are skilled at finding ways to either nullify a person's strengths or use them against their victim. My own rapist was very skilled in this regard.
A man raped him? He must have wanted it: This form of victim blaming is one part homophobia and one part He Should Have Fought Back. Men can overpower other men and do so regularly in physical altercations or by simply communicating a threat. Weapons are also used, as are threats against loved ones, blackmail and drugs or alcohol. The idea that all men can fight off all other men at all times defies logic and credulity. It is incredibly difficult to take a person seriously if they really believe this specious nonsense.
Women don't commit sexual violence: While the stats most often quoted show extremely low numbers of female predation, the reality differs. Quite often the same act committed by a female as by a male is counted separately or not included in official tabulations at all depending on the statistical model. These models, with all of their obvious built-in bias, are then parroted around as if they are apples to apples comparisons of male and female predation. As such biases and outright distortions are often used to eliminate them from from data sets or intentionally isolate such data in lesser or hidden categories, we have no real idea of just how many female predators exist today. For those who believe this myth, perhaps it will be eye-opening to realize that you are reading an article written by a man who was drugged and raped by a woman. We exist and it is time for those truly interested in confronting sexual violence to stop promoting this ugly myth.
Why did you wait so long to report?: When I first told my story online, I was asked repeatedly why I waited so long to disclose and told breathlessly that it meant I was obviously lying. Those asking such questions, believed it to be some unassailable "gotcha". When pressed to justify how that invalidated a person's claims of victimization, they predictably could not defend the concept. Lack of logic and an inability to explain the relevance of their myth seems to matter none to those bent on victim-blaming and rape denial. Many survivors wait decades to confront their traumas as they were not ready at the time, had no support or lacked the ability to confront it. We all heal on our own timeframes. You can't put a deadline on healing and expect it to occur magically.
You must be in it for the money: This ugliness was used against survivors of clergy abuse as well as against some women who named high profile men as their attackers. Were it not for the hard work of SNAP and other organizations who have kept pushing against predators of the cloth, this type of victim-blaming would stilll be occurring regularly to male survivors.
A New Perspective
Whenever the topic of sexual violence arises, it seldom takes long for the victim blaming, second guessing and concern trolls to show their wildly transparent hands. What a person who has not been confronted with trauma feels they would do in response to sexual violence is hardly evidence of anything other than their own arrogant ignorance. It is time to reject the excuses, "I wouldas" and apologia. Along with that, we need to scrap this insidious new meme that male survivors of sexual violence do not get victim-blamed. For those of us who have been on the receiving end, the truth is something else entirely. This is not a case of "What About Teh Menz" or whatever other sexist expression comes to mind, but an appeal to people to behave in a humane manner and refrain from further promotion of rape myths regarding male survivors.
Stop it. Stop it now.
Additional Links on Victim-Blaming and Sexual Violence: