[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.