1 More Thing to End Rape Culture


[Trigger warning for sexual violence]

On Monday, The Nation published an article “conceived by” Walter Moseley and co-edited by Rae Gomes called, “10 Things to End Rape Culture.”

Let me be clear: there is a lot that I like about the list. Many of the calls for awareness are exactly right. But they fall short of being comprehensive because of one fatal flaw.

It starts here:

Rape culture exists because we don’t believe it does.  From tacit acceptance of misogyny in everything from casual conversations with our peers to the media we consume, we accept the degradation of women and posit uncontrollable hyper-sexuality of men as the norm.

Right off the bat, the piece makes clear that it is dealing with a particular kind of rape: violence of men against non-men.

Treating rape culture this way is a dangerous mistake.

If there is one thing, just one thing I would have people who advocate for the elimination of rape culture understand, it’s this: Rape doesn’t just happen to non-men, and it isn’t only perpetrated by men.

Allow me to explain.

If rape is a cultural phenomenon, as many claim, then there is no grounds to exclude certain types of rape from the consideration of it as such.

Rape happens to men: 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes. 1 out of 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape. If we are going to say that the statistics about women experiencing sexual violence are under-reported and cite that as fact, then we must also accept that men’s sexual violence is also under-reported, perhaps even more so.

Men are assumed to ‘deserve’ or ‘want’ sexual contact as well: Calling women sluts is shaming them for their sexual promiscuity, and a woman is assumed to have wanted sexual contact given that promiscuity. Our society perceives men as sexually available all the time. To be a man in our society is to inherently be a “slut” who “wants it,” regardless of any behavioral indications to the contrary. This leads to the disturbing still-prominent myth that men cannot be raped.

We laugh at the rape and abuse of men:

TVTropes says it best:

A man raped by an attractive woman is considered a lucky man, and a man being raped by an unattractive woman is comedy gold.

And I’ll just leave this list here (see the TVTropes article for more examples):

  • Wedding Crashers
  • My Super Ex-Girlfriend
  • Get Him to the Greek
  • Horrible Bosses

If we accept that laughing at women who are raped perpetuates rape culture, then so does laughing at men who are raped or abused.

We ignore prison rape.  A significant amount of rape and sexual violence is perpetuated in prisons. Not just committed by the prisoners, but committed and encouraged by the guards. How does this add to our understanding of rape culture, and why is that not even considered?

By not including how rape affects men and boys, we construct schema and frameworks that do not fit reality. This framework is our current understanding of rape culture. When our models do not fit reality, the solutions that we base upon those frameworks are doomed to fail.

If we want to end rape culture, I suggest we do many of the things that list suggests, but I would encourage us—implore us—to extend the list to the men in our lives also. We cannot end rape culture without considering men. It just cannot be done.

  • Agreed, albeit still heteronormative. There’s still male/male rape and woman/woman rape, and a ton of different combinations on the spectrum between.

    • Absolutely, and I was certainly negligent for not including that. These kinds of sexual violence are other kinds of “outliers” that ought to be included in the consideration of rape culture as well.

    • At the same time rape culture is mostly heteronormative though, even with the exception of prison rapes and jokes about it, it is implied/assumed by many that it occurs only as a substitute for the lack of available women.

      Also trying to stretch to cover all under-represented areas of sexual violence would probably have pulled the focus of the article to wide and lead to a less coherent piece.

  • ManWithPlan

    Thank you for saying this.

    Many years ago I was physically and verbally harassed by my girlfriend for 45 minutes until I acquiesced to have sex with her. There is no way the encounter met the standards of consent. At this point don’t feel particularly traumatized, except in knowing that ANYTHING that I would have tried to do, short of running out of my house and sleeping in the car, would have probably resulted in me getting thrown in jail.

    We don’t help victims, bring perpetrators to justice, or prevent rape by promoting myths and half-truths about rape.

  • Christopher Johnson

    Hi. Great article, and I mean no offense by this minor correction.

    I’d just like to note the 1 in 33 men’s statistic source: the National Violence Against Women Survey. Due to a systematic bias in the literature, the NVAWS is a significant *under report* of the number of male victims. This is because the NVAWS, like many other studies, defines rape as solely occurring when the victim is sexually penetrated by their attacker (and so excluding, for example, a case wherein a man is forced to have vaginal sex with a woman).

    The best community sampling survey thus far is from the CDC NISVS, but unfortunately it decided to separate rape by penetration and rape by envelopment (putting rape by envelopment as an entirely separate category, “made to penetrate”). However, it gives a very rough estimate of about 1 in 16 men being the victims of attempted or completed rape during their lifetimes.

    • Wow, great source! Do you have the link for it? I’d love to see it. Thanks for the correction. No offense taken whatsoever. It’s difficult to find good data on stuff like this. 🙁

      • Christopher Johnson



        Made to penetrate = attempted or completed rape.

        • Gloria Sass

          Something else which is of note, but not emphasized, in the survey:
          Looking at the year 2010 data shown on page 19, it says that 1,267,000 men are estimated to have been “forced to penetrate,” a number which is not much less than the number of women estimated to have been raped that year (1,270,000) based on adding together three different stats – completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, and intoxicant facilitated penetration.

          Additionally, if you look on page 24, the report discusses the sex of the perpetrators, where it states the following (about the lifetime numbers – for some reason they chose not to give a breakdown of the 12 month numbers):

          “The majority of male rape victims (93.3%) reported only male perpetrators. The majority of male rape victims (93.3%) reported only male perpetrators. For three of the other forms of sexual violence, a majority of male victims reported only female perpetrators: being made to penetrate (79.2%), sexual coercion (83.6%), and unwanted sexual contact (53.1%). ”

          Besides the obvious (the majority of perpetrators against male victims are female in all 3 forms of sexual violence listed there besides the CDC’s definition of rape) there’s also this: “(93.3%) reported only male perpetrators” means that 6.7% did not report only male perpetrators – 6.7% reported either female only, or male and female… meaning that even some men forcibly penetrated were victimized by female perpetrators… which seems a particularly brutal thing to do, considering that there could be no purpose in it but to inflict an experience (likely painful) on the victim.

  • Peter

    Very well said, thankyou for writing.

  • Michael Steane

    Rape Culture exists where law an order have completely broken down, usually in war situations after all the men have been murdered. Rape is prevented by men, and by removing fathers from homes, feminists and their allies create the climate for more rape to occur because children from fatherless homes are more likely to be out of control.

  • I much appreciate this post.

    You brought up how men are left out of the rape culture discussion if they are not perpetrators and you are offering up mention of male victims as an actual addition to the discussion. As it stands in the rape culture discussion now the only time non-perp men are mentioned is when someone points out that non-perp men are left out and the “but rape culture does account for male victims” defenses start up.

    Let me tell you a story that shows just how one sided the rape culture discussion is.

    Last year I was sexually harassed by an extremely drunk woman (touching me inappropriately going all the way up to putting her hands down my pants). After stewing on it for a week or so I told this story to three different women. The beginnings of their reactions were as follows:

    1. First woman (who has been date raped) grinned and asked why didn’t I “do it”.

    2. Second woman (who has been sexually assaulted) laughed.

    3. Third woman thankfully actually treated it seriously.

    You want to talk about rape culture that’s it right there. When women who have been sexually assaulted and raped by men turn around and laugh about guys being sexually harassed by women.

    As for movies that where men are raped/abused I’d add 40 Days and 40 Nights. Josh Hartnett bets that he can go 40 days and nights without sex. On the 40th night he has someone tie him to a bed (so that he won’t masturbate I think). He wakes up in the middle of the night with his ex girlfriend on top of him having sex with him. As far as I recall the word rape never came up and if I’m not mistaken when his girlfriend found out she got mad at HIM.

    Yes that’s rape culture. A guy gets raped by a woman and his girlfriend gets made at him.

    Thanks for posting this.

  • Eva

    I have personally met a man who was sexually tortured by his female babysitter for years…being tied, burned, cut, raped in aweful and mutilating ways, and various other things that may be too graphic to explain. It wasn’t just rape…it was literally torture in a violently forced sexual way. It’s left physical scars on his body. I am a woman…and I dare ANYONE to tell that man or any other man that he wanted that. What a sick and twisted thing to say to ANY rape victim.