Recently, the New York Times reported that rape is worse when it happens to men than when it happens to women.
“There is no arena in which rape takes place between men and women that it does not take place between men and men[.]”
Like women, men who are raped feel violated and ashamed and may become severely depressed or suicidal. They are at increased risk for substance abuse, problems with interpersonal relationships, physical impairments, chronic pain, insomnia and other health problems.
But men also face a challenge to their sense of masculinity. Many feel they should have done more to fight off their attackers. Since they may believe that men are never raped, they may feel isolated and reluctant to confide in anyone. Male rape victims may become confused about their sexual orientation or, if gay and raped by a man, blame their sexual orientation for the rape.
See what they did there? Rape is “X” when it happens to women; rape is “X+1” when it happens to men. Of course, the Times would probably deny that’s what they said if they were ever asked about it, but look, folks: the math doesn’t lie.
The way the Times handles this subject is very revealing, and it’s not just that they dedicated two entire pages to the subject of male victims of rape. While we are just supposed to accept its math at face value, and agree with them that male victims suffer the exact same things women suffer, +1, we also are not supposed to notice what they are necessarily implying about femininity, and women’s “sense” of ourselves: that femininity is not challenged at all, and our sense of ourselves is not challenged at all, when we are raped by men. And let’s just assume for the time being that this implication is entirely true. Now why might that be?
Femininity is not challenged at all when men rape women because femininity, and women’s sense of ourselves as patriarchally-constructed “woman”, are literally built on women being raped by men. That’s what femininity is. If that’s not just the complete and unabridged truth of the matter, then ask yourself how in the world could anyone ever think, or believe, or say, or say in public without being seriously challenged on it, that men’s gender role is challenged when men are raped by other men, but women’s isn’t. Women’s gender role is actually supported by rape, while conversely, men’s is challenged. This is what the Times is saying here, and they are absolutely right.
Women are born to be raped, the misogynistic story goes, it’s in our natures to be raped, and men are not born to be raped, and it’s not in their natures to be raped. When women are raped, it might hurt, indeed we may even die from it, but it doesn’t challenge anything about our natures, or about the nature of the relationship between women and men. The natural order of things is supported when women are raped, while conversely, it’s challenged when men are raped. This is what they are saying with this language, and setting up men’s and women’s experience this way.
And women’s sexuality isn’t brought into question when women are raped by men, because women are born to be men’s PIV-receptacles, and that’s what women’s sexuality is. That’s the extent of it: even in a context of violence or extreme violence, that’s the beginning and end of women’s sexuality. Being penetrated by men’s dicks. Women’s sexuality is actually supported when they are raped by men; where conversely, men’s sexuality is challenged when men are raped.
And it was really nice of the Times to sweep the reproductive harm suffered by women and only women through men raping us, including pregnancy and fear of pregnancy, into the dismissive “and other health problems” dustbin of things that can happen to men who are raped by other men too.
An extra added bonus: they had a woman write it. Because, as women, handmaidens of the patriarchy are immune from criticism, while simultaneously being attractive targets and scapegoats for criticism. Either way, men are safe. But the patriarchy is not, and the ways that men’s interlocking systems of oppression work to support men and male privilege at women’s expense are not beyond our criticism.
For anyone interested, the NYT can be contacted here.