Male Rape Survivors and Victim-Blaming

James A. Landrith addresses toxic myths about male rape survivors.

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 atheists 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.

Victim-Blaming

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. In reality, 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.

 

Photo—Sad man from Shutterstock

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About James A. Landrith

James Landrith is a healing rape survivor, public speaker, Vice President of Men Recovering from Military Sexual Trauma (MR. MST), internationally syndicated blogger, civil liberties activist and the notorious editor and publisher of The Multiracial Activist (ISSN: 1552-3446) and The Abolitionist Examiner (ISSN: 1552-2881). Landrith can be reached by email at: [email protected] or at his personal website/blog.

Comments

  1. John Anderson says:

    When it comes to believing victims of rape, they should always be believed when receiving victim’s services. They can’t victimize anyone else directly although you might make an argument about the waste of resources, it would be far worse to deny an actual victim of rape victim’s services than it would be to provide counseling for someone who (in theory) doesn’t need it.

    During the initial phase of a criminal complaint, victims should also be believed. If police don’t initially believe the victim by default, how can they honestly investigate the allegation? If they find inconsistencies or outright fabrications, they could forward that to the DA . The DA could determine if it’s not prosecutable or if there is cause to file a charge of filing a false police report.

    When it comes to the actual prosecution, I can see doubting rape victims. It’s hard to give rape victims the benefit of the doubt, while still providing the accused the presumption of innocence.

  2. “While the stats most often quoted show extremely low numbers of female predation, the reality differs”

    No, it doesn’t. Women can rape men but it is extremely rare. Only 4% of registered sex offenders are female. 96% are male. Ask the justice department. Under-reporting can’t account for such a huge gap. You are biased because of your own experience. You just don’t want to admit the truth.

    “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.”

    Uh, both male and female victims are often accused of lying, so why are you saying it only applies to “male survivors”?

    • Oh really? in a one year period 40% of rapists were female as per the CDC statistics. The majority of rape men face is perpetrated by female perpetrators. You can find this info if you look in the CDC NISVS 2010 full report, however they call “forced to penetrate” as other sexual violence and not rape (a stupid bias).

      Just because the justice department (well known to be biased against men) doesn’t get many female sex offenders doesn’t mean they exist, a lot do not report their abuse. In a one year period equal numbers of men n women were raped, 40% of those rapists were female, and you want to say it’s rare?

      Read the statistics and you might realize the truth is very different to what you say, there is a huge difference between reported abuse and those charged for the crime. Society still doesn’t understand on the whole that women can rape men, pretty much everyone I talk to thinks women can’t rape men.

    • X,

      With regard to your inaccurate use of the word “rare” (which has a defined meaning with regard to statistical analysis), Archy has done a good job of answering those comments.

      With the regard to your claim that I stated only male rape survivors are accused of lying – you are flat-out LYING. No where in my article did I make any such claim. This article is ABOUT MALE SURVIVORS, not FEMALE SURVIVORS. I was talking about what MALE SURVIVORS experience, not what FEMALE SURVIVORS experience or don’t experience. I clearly and explicitly stated this in my opening paragraphs:

      “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.”

      How in the world does stating that something ALSO happens to men suddenly equal saying it ONLY happens to men????? I can’t wrap my head around that bit of nonsense, no matter how hard I try.

  3. penny white says:

    I thought this was an important and well-written article. What saddens me is the number of commenters who disregarded the substance of the article and went off on their own personal rants about false memory and false accusations. If you have these concerns, write your own damn article. This article was about the very important issue of the shaming and invisibility of male rape survivors. I think the author’s points were proven in the comments section: people are so uncomfortable with the reality of male rape survivors that they attempted to erase the subject of the article in their comments. So sad.

  4. Scott Cunningham says:

    This list is great but I feel I need to correct something. Since I developed a bit of a compulsive habit of revealing I was a male rape survivor online (I basically destroyed my whole semester looking for new places to write it and failed everything) I find victim-blaming ass hats DO demand to know what I was wearing. So it can happen.

  5. My brother is being called a liar because no one saw his rape happen.

  6. well i personally believe you but i have something for you the writter
    it is that the writter should have absolutely no sense of guilt on him
    and should consider himself pure
    since in my religion the one who does have to pay the price not the one who has been pursuaded
    its islam

  7. An excellent and intellectual commentary on a crime that even now remains taboo because of social edicts that men are not and cannot be victimized. Those who have been victimized understand all to well the numbing terror of victimization, and it is unlikely that our criminal justice system will encourage male victims to come forward with the same urgency it gives to female victims. Thank you for the piece.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I came across this post by James Landrith, Male Rape Survivors and Victim Blaming. [...]

  2. [...] NSWATM oh these many months ago, addresses (TW for discussion of rape-survivor-blamey bullshit) toxic victim-blaming myths about rape [...]

  3. [...] men. Men are less likely than women to be raped, yes, but it’s not that rare. Men also face unique barriers in admitting and prosecuting sexual assault–from the perception that they “can’t” be raped to the victim-blamey belief [...]

  4. [...] of men. Men are less likely than women to be raped, yes, but it’s not that rare. Men also face unique barriers in admitting and prosecuting sexual assault–from the perception that they “can’t” be raped to the victim-blamey belief that they ought [...]

  5. [...] of men. Men are less likely than women to be raped, yes, but it’s not that rare. Men also face unique barriers in admitting and prosecuting sexual assault–from the perception that they “can’t” be raped to the victim-blamey belief that they ought [...]

  6. [...] covered most of the victim-blaming idiocy that male survivors face before here.  I recently ripped apart an arrogant and ugly female victim-blamer here as well.  I’m not [...]

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