Rape and Gender
By Rod Van Mechelen
Men and women may experience different things as rape. As Warren Farrell
noted, for example, "Both sexes can be raped: a false accusation can be a rape to a man." (Men, Sex & Rape with Peter Jennings, ABC News, May 19, 1992) The shame and social ostracization men often experience from false accusations of rape may be even more devastating than the shame and social ostracization women who have been raped experience.
This is not to validate our cultural attitudes toward rape and sex, nor to say they cannot, or should not, change, but to identify them for what they are. In our culture, we give female shame greater consideration in law, in the media, and in our socialization. The result is, where the ways in which men are raped differ from the ways women are raped, society has been blind.
Brownmiller defines the physical act of rape as a case where "a woman chooses not to have intercourse with a specific man and the man chooses to proceed against her will." (Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape) This is adequate to define one aspect of rape, but if rape is not always a sex crime (that is, not always an incident of forced sexual intercourse, per se), but truly the crime of violence many say it is, then there is no doubt women rape, and can rape men, because rape is an attack on the genitals. What Brownmiller might call an "attempt to annihilate the sexual core." (Against Our Will, Susan Brownmiller.)
If it's rape to attack a woman's genitals, then an attack on a man's genitals is rape, too. Legal experts and pop-feminists alike will probably disagree, and assert that attacking genitals is not rape, but sexual assault, and that rape is an exclusively
male domain: "There is nothing absolutely certain about rapists apart from the fact that they are male." (Jane Dowdeswell, Women on Rape (A Whole woman book)).)
Pop-feminists have been very successful at promoting this idea, and that all men are, by definition, sexual predators: "By anatomical fiat -- the inescapable construction of their genital organs -- the human male was a natural predator and the human female served as his natural prey." (Against Our Will, Susan Brownmiller.)
Legally and traditionally, this may be. But how is penile penetration of a woman's vagina against her will a worse crime than bludgeoning a man's testicles? In the rape of a woman, is the biological foundation of her sexual identity -- her ovaries -- much at risk? The harsh fact is, a woman could be raped every day of her life and her ovaries might never be at risk. But it should be obvious the biological foundation of a man's sexual identity -- his testicles -- are at risk should you strike him there. So, why should penetration be the deciding factor? What about vaginal engulfment of a man's penis against his will?
How can a man's penis get erect enough for a woman to engulf him were he not a willing party? Having never experienced those inconvenient and tremendously embarrassing mid-day erections most men experience as boys passing through puberty, women don't understand how this might happen. They just don't get it.
Involuntary erections are a fact of life for men. We have them in the morning when we wake up, and call them "piss-hard-ons."
Also, a woman may stroke and fondle her victim's penis to erectness even if he's unwilling: "Many people, including victims, falsely believe that an erection means enjoyment and willing participation. However, research shows that just as women who are being sexually assaulted sometimes lubricate and even are orgasmic, men who are forced to have humiliating and frightening sexual experiences can and do maintain erections." (Mic Hunter, Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse.)
However the erection happens, once achieved the assailant can maintain it through the simple though harmful device of wrapping a cord tightly around the base, thereby maintaining and increasing the "hardness" of the erection. Ultimately, this
can result in internal bleeding and blood clots, which may then break loose to float freely and dangerously through a man's circulatory system. Thus, men are vulnerable to penile engulfment against their will: Rape.
In every sense that counts, both penile engulfment against a man's will and testicular assault are rape. But every woman who ever kicked a man's testicles would likely say, "He had it coming." How many convicted rapists have made the same excuse? "She had it coming." There is no difference, and every woman who
has ever kicked a man's testicles is guilty of rape.
Some might complain that by recognizing how women rape men, we will trivialize the entire issue. As one woman protested, "You're stealing their (women's) thunder!"
But women in general and feminists in particular should be eager to recognize male victimization because, once men realize how they are victims of rape, then it will no longer be a case of men-the-protectors guarding women-the-victims, but fellow-victims working together to make life safer for all. Given how the police, the courts, and society often treat female victims of rape with suspicion and disrespect, even pop-feminists should welcome that.