In the world of dialogue about sexual violence, it’s time the language include men as more than aggressors. They are also victims, and we must acknowledge their experiences.
Originally posted at jameslandrith.com.
Carly Fleming of Culture Shock on “How Men Can Talk About Women’s Issues“:
Although there may only be one Feminist Ryan Gosling, there are other men out there offering their support for women’s issues. Any movement fighting against oppression needs to accept allies to maximize the potential to succeed; however, there is often a disconnect in dialogue that prohibits such collaboration from happening.
Last Friday at BU’s weekly Coffee and Conversation, there was a discussion on rape culture stemming from the recent events surrounding the men’s hockey team. We had real talk about slut shaming, survivors, and educating ourselves. The conversation ended with the men feeling as if they were not being given a right to contribute. In my opinion, possession of a penis is not a crime deemed punishable by exclusion. Still, men need to understand a few points before engaging in these conversations.
This is an interesting thread and article. I want to thank Carly for taking the time to write it. Please take the time to read her article and all of the comments. While my comments below were inspired by Carly’s article, I am not solely focusing on her thoughts. I am making broader observations that exist independent of her comments. Please bear that in mind.
I can understand the need to have closed conversations that center on a particular gender, and I support such conversations when done in a manner that is not used to create a hierarchy of survivorhood or promote minimization of other survivors. In short, the way these conversations are identified must be taken into consideration to avoid confusion, generalizations or over-reaching ownership of traumatic experiences based on narrowly defined criteria that are not openly stated.
For instance, a conversation that claims to be about rape culture or sexual violence, but is really ONLY about how the same affect women is misleading. If it is only to be about how those topics affect women, then that needs to be spelled out. If a conversation is identified as meant to discuss rape, then people will rightfully expect it to be about rape in general without exclusions. If it is only about how women are affected by rape than that caveat must be clear and spelled out in plain language. To do otherwise, a discussion/organization runs the risk of appearing to be engaging in minimization or erasure of survivors who don’t fit that narrowly defined criteria.
I am a male rape survivor of a female rapist who drugged a drink and then raped me repeatedly over several hours while unconscious and continued same after the drugs wore off. I don’t claim to understand how female rape survivors feel, and I sure do not expect that they will understand how I feel.
By way of comparison, I’ve gotten to know many female survivors of female rapists and heard their stories and struggles with recognition and acceptance. They have experiences that female survivors of male rapists simply cannot understand fully from their own perspective. The view is just that different. Further, each survivor, regardless of gender identification of the perp or victim reacts uniquely in the short and long term. There is no such thing as a survivor monolith, and I’m tired of seeing that concept promoted and defended in so many places.
Given that the overwhelming vast majority of women have NOT been raped, it is a bit frustrating as an ACTUAL RAPE SURVIVOR who just happens to have a penis to be told repeatedly that rape is a women’s issue, quite often by women who have NOT been raped. Viewed through that lens, I find myself often shaking my head in frustration. My experience as a survivor has made the issue mine as well. I don’t need the permission of a woman who has NOT been raped for me to make sexual violence an issue I take seriously and work to affect in a positive manner. Truly, I don’t.
For nearly 20 years, I have lived and breathed the consequences of her decision to inflict her will on me. I’ve surprised many women who feel comfortable speaking authoritatively on sexual violence sans personal experience with my knowledge of PTSD response and first hand accounts of victim-blaming and healing strategies. I take issue with people male OR female who arrogantly profess to speak for survivors but do not really understand our core issues and challenges, except from an academic or political perspective. In the larger narrative on sexual violence there are giant truckloads of arrogant ignorance that need to be replaced with empathy, learning and listening–regardless of gender identification.
I fully support narrowly defined discussions and exploration of themes on whatever criteria (to include gender) is useful to those controlling the conversation at the time, but my patience is wearing thin for the broad-based hijacking of issues and promotion of generalizations on the basis of the gender when there are millions of male survivors dealing with PTSD and Rape Trauma Syndrome across the globe. We are not only allies to female survivors, but the actual affected parties in our own right. I do not need permission to speak on this issue. I, unlike many people who would see me silenced based solely on my gender, have lived it. I will not sit in the corner in shame like a petulant child awaiting mommy’s permission to speak again.
I can speak for days to my own experiences with rape culture, rape jokes, victim-blaming, denial, threats, cyber harassment, and outright mockery. A person who has not experienced such from the perspective of a rape survivor (regardless of gender identification) is ill-equipped to fully relate and should NOT be engaging in any form of silencing or promotion of survivor hierarchies for any reason.
Quite simply, it is not their right.
Photo by Tomas Sobek/Flickr