Christopher Anderson explains everything you need to know in order to support men who have been raped by women.
Recently, actor Shia LaBeouf made headlines after disclosing that a that a patron attending his #IAMSORRY performance art exhibit raped him. Over the past few days, former CNN host Piers Morgan has engaged in a one-man scorched earth campaign attacking actor Shia LaBeouf.
Shia LaBeouf's claim to have been 'raped' is truly pathetic & demeans real rape victims. Grow up, you silly little man.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) November 28, 2014
Morgan has also gone after many of the persons coming to Shia’s defense.
@thelindywest I don't dislike LaBeouf – I dislike him crying rape when it clearly wasn't. Your article is ridiculous.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 2, 2014
But for all of Piers’ bluster, there is one thing that he has yet to do. Piers has yet to publicly engage with or interview an expert on the topic of male sexual victimization. Since he remains unwilling to speak with experts, I wanted to share the following information. This way, perhaps some people might come away from this whole mess knowing at least something truthful about of the realities of being a male rape victim in today’s society.
- According to research 86% of male survivors of female offenders are not believed. This is in spite of the fact that stories of male victimization are being more and more disclosed.
- It is possible for a woman to rape a man. Research on sexual predation by females is not as common as that on male perpetrators, but it is out there. As a matter of fact 2 separate studies – from 1998 and 2014 – have reported that 43% of surveyed males report having a coercive sexual experience, many of these leading to nonconsensual intercourse (i.e. rape). Another study from 2003 found that “Almost 1 in 10 respondents (9.3%) reported having used aggressive strategies to coerce a man into sexual activities.” Further, it is possible for a man to maintain an erection, even have an orgasm involuntarily. The orgasmic response is regulated autonomically. In other words, a man does not have conscious control over whether or not he can have or maintain an erection. Therefore we cannot presume that an erection is a sign of consent to sexual activity. In fact an orgasm may actually feel physically pleasurable while the victim is feeling psychological terror. There are even ways for perpetrator is to artificially cause a male victim to get and maintain an erection.
- Dissociation, or “freezing” is a common response to being the victim of a violent attack. Humans have 3 basic responses to extreme stress – fight, flight, or freeze. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that freezing is as common, and may in fact be a more likely response in some people than fighting or fleeing. A better of the neurobiological effects of trauma can help us see why people act they ways that they do in traumatic and abusive situations. As Rebecca Ruiz wrote last year for Slate:
In the past decade, neurobiology has evolved to explain why victims respond in ways that make it seem like they could be lying, even when they’re not…. Victims can also experience tonic immobility—a sensation of being frozen in place—or a dissociative state. These types of withdrawal result from extreme fear yet often make it appear as if the victim did not resist the assault.
- Sexual violence is among the least reported crimes in the United States. Over 60% of rapes and other violent sexual violence went unreported from 2006 to 2010 according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Also, “the percentage of unreported violent crime victimizations that were not reported because the victim believed the police would not or could not do anything to help doubled from 10% in 1994 to 20% in 2010”? I would add that the response and criticisms that many, if not most, male victims of sexual abuse receive only adds to a sense of distrust that any disclosures on their part will be dismissed by others.
- Every person has a right to not be abused. Every person has a right not to be raped. We do not need to affirm those rights verbally, or fight off an attacker in order for them to be in effect. To paraphrase a famous quote – A person’s right to swing a whip ends where another’s legs begin.
According to the latest data from the CDC, more than 25,000,000 males in the US have been or will be victims of some form of sexual violence. Regardless of what may or may not have actually been done to Shia in that moment, there is only one salient fact. As Lindy West wrote in the Guardian, “literally the only thing that matters here is that a woman chose to sexually violate him.”
Instead of attacking Shia, we should be acknowledging the fact that what he did will likely empower more survivors, both male and female, to come forward. For all of the attacks that Shia has received, what has been heartening to see is the number of commentators who, regardless of their personal feelings about Shia and/or his art, acknowledge that what he experienced was a violation, and that Shia is not deserving of these uninformed attacks by Piers and others.