Breaking the silence: Including men in the definition of rape challenges stereotypes
An important event happened this week for male victims of sexual abuse — the Department of Justice changed its definition of rape to include rape against men. This is an issue often talked about on The Good Men Project, and we are thankful for this change and will continue to allow conversation, discussion and first-person stories around this topic. We are also grateful to all men who have had the courage to speak to us so far.
The Good Men Project is seen as a leader in the conversation about men’s issues, and so when the announcement came through, we were the first ones that CNN.com called for an opinion. Tom Matlack wrote an op-ed which is currently appearing on their website. Here is an excerpt:
Stereotypes can rumble around in our collective brains for decades, sometimes centuries, before finally being edged out by a more nuanced understanding of reality. It’s been that way with our views about race, creed, sexual orientation and gender roles.
The Justice Department’s announcement this week that it has changed the definition of rape to include men is one such step on the long road to better understanding.
The last few years have seen a growing shift in the way men are perceived, under the collective weight of celebrity bad boys, stay-at-home dads, written scholarship on the supposed “end of men,” an epidemic of male incarceration, two decade-long wars fought mostly by men and a nascent men’s movement that is not about proclaiming male power but male capacity for depth and goodness.
We see men rejecting the stick-figure representation of manhood that gets played out in People magazine. We’ve gone from “Mad Men” to “Men of a Certain Age” in no more than a couple TV seasons.
At the front line of this transition is men’s understanding of what it means to be a victim. Historically, rape has been viewed narrowly as a crime against women. When I interviewed the first victim to come forward in the Catholic sex-abuse scandal in Boston , he legally wasn’t talking about rape. Nor were the countless other men we have featured on The Good Men Project who have been sexually assaulted.
Why? Because of the belief that real men don’t get raped.
But in fact they do. What we know from working with thousands of men in our community of readers and writers is that men are often ashamed to come forward and say they were raped.
As the victim in Boston told me: “I don’t think that people in general, realize the long-term effects that it has on people. I think some people think just, okay, that happened twenty, forty years ago. Buck up, things happen. Be a man.”