There are a lot of myths surrounding female-perpetrated rape, and that results in dismissal and even mockery of male victims. La Shawn Pagán takes on the myths.
Because: any and all allegations of rape – regardless of the gender of the victims and/or perpetrator(s) is crucial for the eradication of sexual assault and subsequent sexual violence throughout an individual’s history.
Outraged by recent articles and comments about the rape allegations made by actor Shia LaBeouf during his recent #IAMSORRY art performance – I began to wonder if are we now male shaming victims of rape?
In the past, slut-shaming of female victims of rape was the excuse. From “her skirt was too short”, to “she was asking for it” and the victim not fighting back were phrases uttered by many when a woman was raped. Then the feminist movement came along and educated most on the fact that the length of a skirt does not establish consent. Still, I believe that it must extend to the education that an erection does establish consent either. But with the fact that too many who haven’t wrapped their minds around a male victimization, a man saying he’s been raped is cause to wonder if he is just saying that to get out of cheating on his girlfriend/wife/partner. This is mostly due to many people thinking that because a ‘man is stronger so he can fight off a woman who is raping him’.
The rationale of men being stronger, therefore capable of stopping a woman from raping him, has been presented to me by two very different people. The first was from a student at La Guardia Community College during a talk about my documentary project Forced into Silence and the importance of recognizing ALL victims of sexual assault and partner abuse. The second time was in a post by Sarah Long for SheKnows.com, where Ms. Long details six reasons why LeBeouf’s allegations ‘don’t add up’ therefore dismissing his claims of rape by a female fan.
To rebut Ms. Long’s list of ‘facts’ that don’t add up, I’d like to present my own list of reasons as to why this is likely to be true than not.
- He said it happened – there’s no reason why we shouldn’t believe anyone, of any gender, who claims to be raped. Why? Because it is more likely to be true.
Those who are afflicted by mental illness or emotional turmoil much like Mr. LeBeouf has openly battled with since 2005, are more likely to be victimized. Just as Lindy West in her article for The Guardian eloquently and intelligibly notes, ‘people who suffer from mental illness are more likely of being assaulted’. I’d like to add that it is mostly because the authorities and the general public will often dismiss allegations as ‘crazy talk’ or as a way to seek out attention – which is a shame in my book. Ms. Long also wonders how is it that LeBeouf knows that the rapist’s boyfriend was in line…well, maybe she told him? Fans to speak a lot when they meet someone they admire.
- The issue of ‘not fighting back’ – it is often reported that victims (male or female) of brutal rape, or even non violent sexual assault are so in shock they cannot move.
Survivors of such traumas have often said that ‘it was like I was watching from outside of my body’. It is not rare to physically disassociate from physical trauma like rape, maiming, or other severe physical forms of attacks. Still, not being able to really understand or even accept that the event happened to them. Not fighting back doesn’t make it less of an assault.
- The ‘he had an erection’ excuse – this has been a little harder for people to understand; including men. However, erections can be both voluntary and involuntary.
Men have described involuntary erections as a sort of wave of adrenaline that rushes through their bodies which they cannot control. While voluntary erections are often the effects of a man seeing an attractive person and being turned on by them. Involuntary erections vary in cause and require little-to-no-physical stimulation. If you’re a woman who is reading this and still cannot understand how this works, think of it this way: those times when you feel that wave of tickles that rush through your body that render you ‘stimulated’ in the middle of the day, as you sit in the car in the traffic jam, working on paperwork in the cubicle, walking down the street to run some errands or get lunch – it’s pretty much like that. Involuntary stimulation does not mean that you’re consenting to sex; it’s just your body doing their own thing at an inconvenient time.
- Men are just as vulnerable as women – that’s right, both men and women can get raped, be abused by a partner (regardless of their gender) and can be consistently abused throughout their lives.
Unlike women however, men have it a bit tough – because people rarely believe a man who has been victimized. What’s worse, if they do believe him, the man is then further (verbally and emotionally) abused for being less of the misogynistic and antiquated ideals of what it really means to ‘be a man’.
- Rape doesn’t have to be violent in order to be rape – it’s as simple as “no means no”. Lack of consent makes it rape.
In this particular case, LeBeouf remained mostly immobile and silent for the duration of the art performance while wearing a paper bag that had the words “I am not famous anymore” written on it in visible large black ink, as he welcomed fans to have a one on one with him.
I speculate that once this particular ‘fan’ came in and began to assault LeBeouf caused him to go into immediate shock. It wouldn’t be unbelievable to think that LeBeouf used the paper bag as a shield to hide from the trauma of what was happening to him. The fact that this woman beat him, and proceed to rape him during his performance could have made this paper bag an escape or protective bubble of some kind. It has been reported by psychiatric experts that many victims hold on to something so they could survive their attacks – would it be so crazy to believe that LeBeouf escaped into his paper bag, therefore witnessing his own assault through the cut out holes made for his eyes without being able to fight back? I don’t think this theory is altogether out there. Reiterating the point of: If he didn’t consent, he was raped.
- Female-on-male rape is real – yes ladies and gentlemen, it is real, a woman can rape a man. No, she does not need to penetrate him in order to do so.
In my opinion, the most prevalent example of dismissal of male victimization can be seen in the film 40 Days and 40 Nights starring Josh Hartnett as Matt, a man who gives up all forms of sexual activities for Lent. At some point of the film a female character handcuffs Matt’s to a bed and proceeds to rape him. That’s right, she rapes him. Matt pleads with her to stop, there’s even a close up of Josh Hartnett’s face where he can be seen crying, but the woman doesn’t care and continues raping him. Matt gets no sympathy whatsoever and is blamed for the rape by his new love interest (Shannyn Sossamon) who doesn’t want to hear it and accuses him of making up this story as an excuse for having had sex with another woman.
This is the case for many men – they aren’t taken seriously for their victimization. Case in point: the very real woman in Germany who repeatedly raped two men. The woman, who according to The Mirror UK “forced [her dates] them to make love to her” was clearly a nymphomaniac. One of her victims was found sobbing in the street after escaping 36 hours of continued rape and physical torture, which the paper labeled as ‘sex ordeal’.
Sexual assault is a real issue. What’s even more real is the fact that as a society has evidently graduated from slut shaming to male-shaming men who are victims of rape. With “he must have loved it” and “why didn’t he fight back?” as well as “well, he was hard…” to name a few, we’re taking giant leaps backwards in the fight against victimization. Sexual assault and domestic violence is not just a woman issue, it is everyone’s issue and as such we should treat it. How else are we to stop all forms of violence if we don’t recognize that it is an affliction that affects us all?
Follow La Shawn on twitter at: @LaShawnPagan
Photo: Flickr/Dan Queiroz