In light of news stories about Vanessa Williams’ abuse at the hands of a female, and a police officer raping a woman at gunpoint, Zek J. Evets thinks we all need to get involved in redefining rape.
I recently read this article in the New York Daily News released on April 1st. It’s about the trial of former police officer Michael Pena, who was convicted of predatory sexual assault against a woman he had orally and anally molested at gunpoint. However, because there was no vaginal penetration, Pena wasn’t convicted of rape. [Trigger Warning]
Let me repeat, because there was no vaginal penetration there could be no charge of rape.
No, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke. This really happened. The author, David Handschuh put it like this:
“[T]he current penal law sets two standards. To convict someone of first-degree oral or anal sexual assault, prosecutors need only show “contact” between the attacker and the victim. But when the charge is rape, prosecutors must prove that there was “penetration, however slight.” Simple vaginal “contact” is “sexual abuse,” a much lower category of crime.”
He goes on to mention how the jury refused to convict Pena of rape because the prosecution was unable to prove penetration.
“Even though the victim testified that she had been penetrated. Even though two witnesses supported the woman’s account. Even though Pena’s semen was found in her underwear. Even though a doctor testified to injuries consistent with rape.”
This story reminds me of the struggles male victims of rape go through, especially those who were raped by women. Most people believe that for men, erection equals consent. Most people, especially the kids of Middle America, believe that oral and anal sex don’t really count. Most people are only too willing to discredit victims of sexual crimes, no matter their gender. Under these kinds of cultural stereotypes, I have to ask: what is rape then? Is rape just a strange man in the bushes attacking women who’ve wandered into dark corners? Is that what it takes to be raped these days?
I know men who were enveloped unwillingly; who were raped by mothers, aunts, sisters, girlfriends and wives. Vanessa Williams, of brown M&M fame, has revealed that she was molested by an 18 year-old family friend named Susan when she was 10 years-old. For the record, Susan is a woman, a gender supposedly incapable of rape according to many.
But because there was no penetration in these cases, because they weren’t penetrated, society has stipulated that it wasn’t rape. Really? For real? … For really real? In the words of the late great Kurt Vonnegut, “welcome to the monkey house.” Meanwhile, their abusers get off easy with lighter sentences or, in the case of female offenders, often no sentence at all.
It wasn’t long ago that current Federal law defined rape as: “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will”, and this has been in use since the 1920’s. Under this law, the scenarios I mentioned above are mere sexual assault or harassment. Under this law men could not even be raped — male victims did not exist, legally. It was only recently this year that public pressure forced a change in the law to include forcible anal or oral penetration, the penetration of the vagina or anus with an object or other body part, the rape of a man, or the rape of a woman by another woman into the legal definition the crime. However, this has yet to take effect.
In the meantime, how do we change this reductive and debunked view of rape in our society? How do we—as Masculists or Feminists or just plain people—change the terrible ways in which rape is defined?
I knew a teenage girl who refused to believe men were capable of being raped by a woman. When I told her the stories about Mary Kay Letourneau, Debra Lafave, and certain Zimbabwean women who even went as far as to steal semen in addition to gang-raping men. She said to me, “that doesn’t count.”
I’ve known grown men who are more likely to believe in UFOs or Bigfoot than some woman who says she was raped. (For the record: UFOs and Bigfoot are real.) They laugh at these women’s stories and slap each others’ backs while calling themselves “good Christian folk”.
Unlike almost any other crime, rape is one in which our private notions of gender, sexuality, and personal responsibility become politicized to the point of oppression. Because of the overwhelming stigmas projected upon rape victims, there are no accurate numbers to describe them. We can only hazard a guess at the sheer amount of Americans who’ve been raped in their lifetime. These uncounted survivors are true subalterns in every sense of the word.
For male victims, it’s like living a double-life, with no resources, no recognition, and no support from the greater whole of American society. Rape-activists regularly discredit men who say they’ve been raped by women, in addition to societal jokes designed to emasculate and shame which results in ultimately silencing these already oppressed men. These factors result in the smallest fraction of male victims coming forward to talk about their experiences, which paradoxically results in greater ignorance supporting the stereotype that men cannot be raped, are not raped, and let’s move on to talking about women shall we? Such actions are ironic among Feminist rape-activists, who passionately protest them in what’s called American “rape culture”.
For the survivor of Pena’s “predatory sexual assault”, society is only just beginning to recognize the further unnecessary suffering she was put through after having already survived rape. For male victims, the road ahead seems far bleaker and uncertain. But you don’t need a dictionary to know this: we need to redefine rape. As Masculists, we have a responsibility to our brothers and our sisters to prevent occurrences like in the offense of Michael Pena from happening to anyone.
So write your congressional representative. Write the President. Write to your local politicians. Write to your local police station. Write to your local newspaper. Write to rape-activist groups in your area. Start petitions. Make flyers. Form a support group. Do whatever you can, because each small pebble placed will eventually build a bridge across this precipice.