Rape, Male Victims, and Why We Need to Care

by Cara on June 11, 2010

in bigotry, feminism, misogyny, patriarchy, rape and sexual assault, trans, transphobia and trans misogyny, violence against women and girls

Trigger Warning for rape apologism and discussions of sexual violence

Earlier this week, Meghan Murphy of the Feminist Media Collective blog wrote a piece attacking an old blog post I wrote about rape apologism specifically directed at male rape victims, as well as a recent post on a similar subject by RMJ over at Bitch. This post is titled “Can Women Rape Men? I’m Not Sure I Care.” If you’d like a more elaborate answer to the title question, as best as I can deduce from the whole post, Murphy has concluded “Well, yes, technically, I guess. But I still don’t care. Also, I’m really, really annoyed at those who do.”

Her annoyance seems to largely derive from serious — and one cannot help but wonder if they are deliberate — misreadings and distortions of both my post and RMJ’s. (Or, at least, a misreading of my post, and a certainly very different reading of RMJ’s than I have.) Because I wrote about rape apologism directed at male rape survivors and how it both resembles and differs from rape apologism directed at female survivors, and because RMJ had the audacity to point out that rape jokes are not funny regardless of the target, Murphy declares:

I get the feeling that both authors want these men’s experiences to be viewed as equal to women’s experiences. As though they are equally at risk, equally victimized, as though men, just like women, are in constant danger of being raped. Bullshit.

Of course, any regular reader of my writing knows that it’s absurd to suggest that I think rape culture makes equal victims of men, that I don’t know women make up the vast majority of rape victims, and/or that I think the impact that the threat of rape has on the everyday lives of women is negligible. From what I know of RMJ (and I have no desire to put words in her mouth), I’d say that she probably understands the advantage that men have in rape culture, too. And yet on the basis of these posts, which are specifically about the phenomenon of women raping men and not exactly representative of the topics that either RMJ or I blog on most frequently, Murphy accuses:

What is it with this decade (and, might I add, the third wave) and ignoring context? Now we are supposed to talk about rape while constantly reminding one another that women ‘rape’ men too? Fuck off.

Somehow, I’ve been transformed into the kind of Men’s Rights Activist troll who regularly cries what about the menz? whenever someone talks about rape against women, or rape as a gendered crime. Meanwhile, Murphy is portraying herself as the kind of rape apologist who denies others’ experiences and puts the word “rape” in scare quotes to invalidate its meaning and realness.

In short, Murphy wants to know why either RMJ or I would respond to jokes about men being raped by women with outrage apparently similar to that which we would use for jokes about women being raped by men, when men so commonly rape women and women less commonly only “rape” men.

To briefly answer her question with regards to RMJ, here is why what RMJ wrote about is important: because jokes about non-consensual sexual conduct — rape — reinforce rape as normal, natural, acceptable, and funny. The increasing pop cultural change from women victims as the butt of rape jokes to male victims is only indicative of a shift in cultural attitudes towards gender, but not towards the normalcy and acceptability of non-consensual sexual conduct in general. When rape is still being portrayed as normal, no matter who the victim, rape culture is being heavily reinforced — and it’s not just the butt of the joke who is affected. It is a danger to us all, and it is the absolute last thing that needs to be heard and repeated in a rape apologist society in which we live.

As for me, here is in large part where I think that Murphy and I differ: She seems to think that our goal ought to be to end rape as a specifically gendered crime committed by men against women. I think our goal should be to end rape.

Of course, addressing the gendered nature of most rapes is an integral part of reaching that goal — that’s why it’s something that I talk about in virtually every single post that I write. But I’m not satisfied ending it there. I don’t consider it a win to joke about rape that isn’t a specifically gendered crime. And I don’t think that it’s a win to simply stop rape as a tool used by men against women as a means of reinforcing patriarchy, when rape is still going to inevitably used as a tool of reinforcing other kyriarchal structures of power.

I still believe that where some of us our vulnerable to rape, any of us can be made vulnerable to rape. I think that where the bodily autonomy of some of us is not respected, the bodily autonomy of any of us is liable to being denied. (Though of course some of us will always be at more risk than others.) I think that even if it wasn’t, fighting even for the bodily integrity of even one person is enough. And while I center the vast majority of my work on fighting for bodily integrity and autonomy for women, I don’t do it because I think that women deserve something special. I do it because I believe in bodily autonomy for everyone as a human right, and women are among those who are being specially denied it.

I don’t fight against rape just because rape is mostly committed against women, though that is a part of it. I fight against rape because it’s one of the gravest violations that a person can commit and that a person can experience. I fight against rape because it is a violent means of reinforcing kyriarchal power, and I believe that kyriarchy needs to be stopped fully. And so saying you “don’t care” about some rapes and some rape victims puts us squarely on different sides, with different goals in mind.

Murphy writes:

We aren’t gender blind, just like we aren’t colour blind. We are not living in an equitable society and therefore all things do not carry the same meaning. This is why a man cannot be sexually objectified in the same way as a woman can. And why there’s no such thing as being ‘racist’ towards white people. Because of, (all together now) CON-TEXT.  I feel very strongly that, to speak as though men raping women is the same as women raping men, is both deceptive and dangerous. Men and women aren’t the same. It is because we don’t live in an equitable society that, to talk about rape happening equally or in an equally significant way between men and women, is just not ok.

Murphy is absolutely correct in her assertion that sexual assaults can have different meanings based on the marginalized identity or lack thereof of both the victim and perpetrator.

I do believe that most rapes are committed against women because they are women — and thus think that in a non-legal sense, they can be properly referred to as hate crimes. Specifically, some rapes are committed against trans women because they are women and because they are trans*. Some rapes are committed against trans men because they are trans*. Some rapes are committed against men, whether cis or trans*, because they are gay. There are also many, many more examples, and the oppressive hate aspect of the crime can easily exacerbate trauma. All of these rapes carry somewhat different meanings, because they’re all based in different though sometimes intersecting oppressions. And while there may be reasons that a rape by a woman against a man is properly classified as a hate crime (see some of those listed above), it’s true that this is not usually the case in the way that most rapes of men against women are hate crimes.

But the fact that such a crime is not usually a hate crime does not mean that it wasn’t a rape. And it’s wrong and appalling to dismissively talk about actual rape committed against men, which causes very real harm and trauma, as though it is similar to the myth of “reverse racism” and the petty, privileged bruised feelings of a white person who has been called a “cracker.”

This is absolutely clear to anyone who views rape not as a simple function of body parts or as just an exertion of specifically oppressive power — though it most commonly is that, too — but also as a grave violation of one’s autonomy and one’s self.

But Murphy makes quite obvious in her article that she thinks rape is all about body parts. Indeed, in her attempt to argue that only cis women are the really real rape victims worth talking about, thanks to us having the only really real oppression, she also manages to completely erase and deny the experiences not just of many rape survivors who aren’t cis women, but of those who are.

Rape is gendered. Domestic abuse is gendered. This is not to say that men aren’t raped. It is to say that or to imply that women are capable of raping a man in the same way that men are capable of raping women is damaging and unclear. A man can penetrate a woman. A man can penetrate a man. He has that power. A woman does not.

Let’s not mince words: Murphy is quite clearly talking about penises. With fingers and objects obviously being available to the vast majority of us, penises are what she seems to think that men have that allows them to rape and what she thinks that women lack to exempt them from it. This is extraordinarily cissexist, of course. Penises aren’t body parts exclusive to men, and penises aren’t something that all men have. Some people don’t even identify as men or women! The assertion is also extremely heterosexist, as she has deduced penetrative sex acts to be the only acts that can be committed as rape.

And so with these words, she erases very many trans* survivors of rape. She erases many cis male survivors of rape. And as a cis woman survivor of rape, she erases me.

Reducing rape to “non-consensual penis in orifice” is just plain gross. It’s also incredibly silencing.

I was raped by a man. But I was not raped with a penis. This is none of your business, actually. And it has no bearing on anything I’ve ever written. But I’m telling you now quite simply because I’m tired of being silenced, I’m tired of being erased, and I’m tired — so very, very tired — of being silenced and erased while knowing that countless others are being silenced and erased. I’m tired of feeling too afraid, too dismissed, too vulnerable, my status as a rape survivor too precarious, to open my mouth and say something about it.

I was not raped with a penis. But I was raped, goddammit. I was raped.

And so was everyone else who survived a sexual bodily violation that didn’t involve a phallus. We all were. And we matter.

Here’s the thing: if you’re going to go around erasing survivors, it’s pretty difficult to erase only the ones you want to. You can’t come up with a good reason why male rape survivors don’t count without also erasing some women rape survivors or survivors of other genders. If it’s about the rapist having oppressive power based in gender over the victim, you erase women who have been raped by women or by people of non-binary genders. If it’s about penises, you erase women who have penises, men who don’t, and victims who were raped with something other than a penis. If it’s about men having so much power in society and you just being understandably really angry about that, it’s impossible to make a non-oppressive argument that white rape survivors, straight rape survivors, cis rape survivors, abled rape survivors, and so on, shouldn’t also be erased.

In short, you can’t come up with a good reason why any rape survivor doesn’t count without creating a bullshit litmus test that damages us all.

It’s absolutely acceptable to center a particularly oppressed group when talking about rape, especially when you belong to that group yourself. I find it entirely acceptable and even positive for women to focus on rape committed against women, and to not be constantly compelled to talk about men, who are in a position of relative privilege. I find it similarly acceptable and positive for trans* people of whatever gender to focus on rape committed against other trans* people, and to not be constantly harassed about caring more about cis survivors. I find it acceptable and positive for people with disabilities to talk about sexual violence specifically committed against other people with disabilities, and to not have to deal with constant reminders that abled people are raped, too.

And I honestly have not the slightest clue why anyone would think that I might want to take that from them.

But actively denying those survivors you don’t center is a different story. Castigating someone else for talking about them ever, and for even calling their experiences rape, is an entirely different subject. Outright saying that you do not care if they are raped may indeed be an expression of righteous anger, but it’s sure as hell not getting us anywhere, collectively. Ejecting other survivors from a larger community of survivors is alienating, as is also attempting to eject those who dare mention their existence.

No one should be expected to care more about male survivors of rape than any other survivors, or even to care just as much. But if we really believe in the right of others to define their own experiences, if we really think that sexual violence is wrong, and if we really think that rape apologism and denialism is a destructive force both personally and socially, we do still have to care.

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{ 26 comments }

1 dopegirlfresh June 11, 2010 at 2:02 pm

CARA! this is stellar. i will re-read, and retweet, and share over and again. thank you.

2 genderbitch June 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

It seems fairly obvious to me that Murphy is more concerned with playing Oppression Olympics than actually doing shit about sexual violence.

Beautiful response to her bullshit.

3 Social Worker June 11, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Wow, just wow! You came at this with such passion and clarity, and in such a nuanced situation. Having been similarly misread (deliberately or not, I don’t know, though I tend to think it was an honest mistake), I understand your vehemence on making your stance totally clear.
It is often bizarre and frustrating to me how we can think we are saying something so clearly and someone else derives a completely missed take out of it.
Well written!

(I’m still planning to email you assuming posts are still not going through. I have noticed a drop in comments lately, so have a feeling this is a blog glitch you are facing. Feel free to delete this portion, if you see it at all.)

4 Jemima Aslana June 11, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I agree with the above two commenters – whose tweets notified me of the post. This was an awesome take-down of Murphy’s steaming pile of privileged refuse.

5 Elena Perez June 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Excellent, excellent piece, Cara. Yes, it has to be possible to acknowledge the ways that societal power plays into rape without erasing or minimizing rape for any individual or group, regardless of where they may fall on the pyramid of kyriarchy.

6 FashionablyEvil June 11, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Cara, this is a fabulous post. I read Meghan’s post first and was so offended that I didn’t even know where to being. One part that particularly bothers me:

A man can penetrate a woman. A man can penetrate a man. He has that power. A woman does not.

I hate the conception that penetration is power. That there is inherent weakness in being penetrated. If you accept this definition, you are effectively saying that a woman can never have sexual power (in a heterosexual relationship.) And, as you noted, Cara, it erases a wide range of experiences.

7 RMJ June 11, 2010 at 6:31 pm

This is a fantastic post, Cara, and you did not put any words in my mouth. Thank you for writing it.

8 Annaham June 11, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Amazing takedown, Cara.

9 Brandon M. Sergent June 11, 2010 at 8:34 pm

“that can committed as rape.” Typo? Did you leave out a “be” or do my grammar skills need work?

“women make up the vast majority of rape victims”

I feel the need to question exactly what you mean by that. Here’s why.

Which gender has the highest percentage globally of those raped at least once? Women.

In the United States? Women again. (Depending obviously on how you define rape.)

But here’s where it gets tricky. Give that 1% of the American population is in prison, and that clearly as a society we like the fact that prisoners are routinely raped. Indeed were it not for fear of rape I could see many people going to prison on purpose. This also goes to your sentiment about women living in fear of rape to a greater extent than men. I can’t speak for the world but fear of wrongful imprisonment and the rape that goes with it weighs heavily on my mind. That’s part of why I’m so into the innocence movement, among other things.

I worry about the cops dragging me off to rape camp thinking I’m someone else at least once a day.

So I ask you, which gender is the most likely to be a rape victim in any given instance of rape in the united states?

I’m thinking, though I can’t really know given how few prison rapes percentage wise are actually reported, men may very well be the answer. As I’ve said in my previous posts on the subject of rape, a single prison “bitch” or “punk” in a year can easily match, in terms of number of instances of rape, a whole town.

Things are changing fast, things have changed. Careful you don’t fall into the trap that your opponent has clearly fallen into, that of revenge over equality.

As a white man, I’m pretty much not allowed to talk about this subject. I’m apparently this ultra powerful oppressor who’s never known suffering and who is rape proof. Go figure.

So I’d like to see someone society won’t call atrocious names for doing so, speak on this topic.

You speak about erasing victims, well I don’t care what a prisoner did, they are still human and American, and rape as far as I can tell counts as cruel and unusual punishment.

As a side note, prisoners get released. Maybe if we did something about rape in prison, like say make it wrong, less prisoners who are released would rape. That’s just one tiny benefit.

Something to think about.

10 Cara June 11, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Brandon, yes, it was a typo, thank you.

I think it’s clear that I was referring to victims that have been raped at least once. But by that token, I still think it’s a rather big leap — even with the very, very high rates of rape in prison — to say that when repeated rapes are counted individually, men are the victims in the majority of rapes. After all, let us not forget that many, many female rape victims are subjected to multiple rapes — for example, in abusive relationships. I also don’t think it’s a contest, and if you were to peruse the archives, you’ll see that I’ve written about prison rape many times, especially in these past few months. It’s a serious problem, I’m more than well aware of it, I speak out on it, and so I really don’t need to be lectured on it.

Indeed, I find your statement that “Indeed were it not for fear of rape I could see many people going to prison on purpose” to be incredibly disturbing and lacking understanding of what kind of other violence takes place in prison, the racism and other bigotry of the judicial system, and the effects of spending time in prison on one’s life forever.

I will also say that while you may personally have the fear of being wrongly sent to prison and raped there, I do not believe for a second that this is as widespread a fear as the one held by legions of women regarding leaving the house at night, being alone with a man she doesn’t know well, being cat called and otherwise harassed on the street, being hit on or stared at by a stranger, and so on. Especially since all of these things actually happen to women all the time, whereas most men, especially white men, are not given given reasons to fear false imprisonment on a daily to weekly basis. Not to mention still that only a very small number of men will be falsely imprisoned, while somewhere between 1 and 3 and 1 and 6 women, depending on who you ask, will be raped.

Again, it’s not a contest. You can speak of your own fear without trying to prove that women don’t really have it so bad and without appropriating our experiences.

Also, if you can’t tell the difference between people discussing whiteness and maleness as oppressive or referencing the truth that by virtue of your whiteness and maleness you have social privilege and us saying to you that you are “this ultra powerful oppressor who’s never known suffering and who is rape proof” … well, you’ve just really upped your chances that the “oppressor” allegation that was not even made is actually true.

11 Tasha Fierce June 11, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Wow, that F-word post is awful. Good job making your point even more crystal clear than it already was (for most intelligent people). I can’t imagine saying I didn’t care if a group of people experienced rape, no matter how privileged.

12 Lillian June 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm

First of all, fantastic post! I really don’t want to defend anyone who starts out a sentence with “I’m a white man so I’m not allowed to…” However, something like 10% of all black men in this country are in prison– I think that a male fear of rape in prison is a pretty legitimate one, and if you’re a young man of color, probably much more widespread than one might think. Maybe men don’t express their fears of rape the way women do, but the fear is very present in our culture (usually as joking references to dropping the soap and being someone’s bitch)– when we think prison, we think rape. While I don’t think that if the rape element was to be removed from prison life there would be people lining up to get in (because that’s completely absurd), I do think that fear of rape is part and parcel of fear of prison in our culture. But in the past, the fear has been of getting beat up by other inmates, mistreated by cruel wardens, tortured by the state, etc. Prison isn’t some fancy hotel that’s totally awesome except for the pesky rape part.

This guy needs to check his privilege and stop trying to win a gold medal in the potential rape victim olympics. Seriously? One male prisoner in a month gets raped more than a town? Because only male prisoners get routinely raped, and the female prisoners who are sexually abused for long periods of time, the many women with abusive husbands/boyfriends/girlfriends/etc., the children abused by family members, clergy and other adults for years at a time, are all asking for it somehow?

Well, as I said, well done Cara. I look forward to reading more of your blog!

13 minna June 11, 2010 at 10:30 pm

I know way, way too many people who think their rapes didn’t count because they weren’t penetrated. But all of them were raped. And all of them count. Goddamn, I just want to punch something.

14 FreshPeaches June 12, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Thank you for this. As someone who was in the position of trying to help my sobbing and broken cis male friend the day after he was raped by a cis female I am APPALLED at how often people erase experiences like his. Claiming that it isn’t possible, wasn’t *really* unwanted, etc has been, imo, almost as damaging to him as the actual rape*. It was rape. Full stop.

*In that it informed events that followed. Obviously his experience doesn’t generalize to everyone.

15 Dw3t-Hthr June 15, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I know that the social complexes around rape and sexual assault were at least as traumatic to me as the actual event of what happened to me. And I was at least working in a cultural narrative that acknowledged that sexual violence could happen to me, even if maybe the sexual violence that did happen to me didn’t count and if it did made me into an unperson.

It seems to me that a male survivor would have the same experience, without the acknowledgement of the potential for being a victim of sexual violence in the first place.

16 The Chemist June 16, 2010 at 2:48 am

That was a truly amazing response, and very brave. It’s a difficult thing to counter an argument by abstraction based on what you know from experience. Often people can’t declare these things openly because it’s personal (like sexual assault), or because an admission of it can come back to materially harm you (like mental illness). Silencing is more than just telling these people they have no right to consider themselves oppressed, it’s also about choosing groups that have enough difficulty speaking to begin with. I respect and admire you for refusing to be silenced.

17 Nancy Lebovitz June 17, 2010 at 8:37 am

As stated below, this isn’t exactly a competition, but getting raped in prison is a serious risk for women, too– mostly by male guards, I think. The culture treats that as invisible rather than making jokes about it.

18 Cara July 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

A note on moderation:

People who make people I care about feel unwelcome and unsafe in the world, and particularly in feminist spaces, aren’t welcome in my feminist space. Even if/when they leave a comment that is, on its own, completely unobjectionable. Especially when their name links to what I view and will always view as straight up hatred.

If you are, right now, on this thread and wondering where your comment went, this just might be your explanation.

19 HeyyyyyyyPunk July 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Love, love, LOVE the post. It’s so disappointing when one sees people who are supposed to be on your side get lost in petty distractions like oppression olympics.

Everything else I wanted to say has been said so:

As a white (albeit gay) male, I understand where Brandon M. Sergent is coming from. A well-intended piece of advice: you have to swallow your pride in order to truly understand your place of privilege. It’s extremely hard to do, but all the really cool people will be thankful for it. NO ONE here, especially not Cara, is suggesting that prison rape or rape against men in general is inconsequential. Also, this is a feminist blog. Although this means at its heart is the belief that all people are equal, it focuses (justifiably so) on oppression of women. (See fourth from last paragraph in the post.)

20 Meghan Murphy! July 16, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Eek! Wow. I really need to start stalking myself on the internet more vigilantly! Or, like, at all! This is harsh, dude. I had and continue to have no intention of attacking you or your piece. I disagree with some of your perspectives for sure, but bigotry? Rape apologist? Yeesh. It ain’t me. And hating on other feminists ain’t it. I do believe there can be such a thing as criticism and even disagreements without a ‘take down’ or a personal attack. Particularly among feminists. Writing an entire post about how evil I am? Because I disagree with you? Again with the yeesh.

I am not the enemy. I’d even go so far as to consider myself as being on your side! Even when I disagree with you!

As for my piece, obviously I realized that it would be inflammatory when I wrote it. I often lean towards exaggeration as a way to initiate discussion and imagine that many do not respect that as a tactic for eliciting dialogue about controversial issues.
Nonetheless – talk about silencing eh? Well throwing out the old ‘Bigot’ sure is a quick and effective way to shut someone up, as I’m sure you realize. I’m going to try very hard not to keep my mouth shut, even out of fear that someone may or may not try very hard to ensure that all of the internet thinks I am a giant asshole.

In conclusion, nice to meet you Cara! Hopefully our future encounters will be less, uh, malicious. Maybe less character assassinationy.

Yours truly,
Meghan Murphy!

21 Cara July 16, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Hi Meghan,

I don’t believe I did write an entire post about how evil you are, and I certainly didn’t intend to. What I think I wrote, and what I intended to write, was an entire post about why I found a post that you wrote to be really, really offensive. Which is, of course, more or less what you did with my post originally. As for personal barbs, some certainly are present — but I would note that your “exaggeration” didn’t paint a particularly rosy picture of me, either. My post wasn’t always polite, no, but neither was telling me to “fuck off,” so I think we might be even. (As for “bigot,” I never actually called you one, and apparently my categorizing system is more controversial than I had realized. But I would just note that I can accuse someone of engaging in racism without saying “you’re a racist,” and I think the same notion applies.)

All of that said, if you’d like to actually respond to any of the points I made in the post, I’m willing to hear what you have to say.

22 Fenced July 18, 2010 at 3:58 am

Hello Cara,

I should begin this post by saying I am a female in a long term relationship with a male that I will be referring to as my partner. I call him this because I believe marriage is legal slavery and he believes it is an archaic institution. So we will never take out licenses on each other.

With regards to the prevalence of male rape , no it is not at the levels of female assualt, but my partner is a survivor of male rape and I have gone to some his group therapy session with him per his request. There are about a dozen men in his group -sometimes more because it is the only group therapy for male sexual assault surviors for a few counties- and he is the only one that ever reported what happened. Male sexual assault a bigger issue in the battle to stop rape than I have ever seen anyone admit

When I read this article, I had to show it to my life partner. When he read it he agreed that men do not worry about rape in their daily lives, but he was upset when he at the end of an eloquent article advocating the respect of ALL people having equal sovereignty of their bodies he read, “No one should be expected to care more about male survivors of rape than any other survivors, or even to care just as much.” Before he pointed the phrase ” or even care just as much” I did not even realize the implication of the line. That it implied (purposefully or not) that male rape is a less serious crime than female rape. Before I say anything or comment on the merit of this article, or even complete my opinion on it, I have to ask: When you wrote , “No one should be expected to care more about male survivors of rape than any other survivors, or even to care just as much,” were you implying that male rape is not as serious of a crime as female rape?

I will assume (and hope) the answer is no. As a survivor you know what that implied minimalization of the days of repeatedly sexual volation he suffered did to him. He described reading that line as triggering. Then he took his emotional knock and shirked away, explaining how he should not expect a feminist blog to consider the affects a statement like that would have on male survivors, blaming himself and his perceived prohibited presence here for his reaction to what you wrote. I, however, can not have the same reaction and I would like an answer to my question.

With all that said I do enjoy most of your blog. I do not agree with it all, but I think you are a good writer and express yourself in a way that allows one to examine their own views on an intellectual rather than an emotional level.

I look foward to your response.

23 Cara July 18, 2010 at 9:31 am

Fenced, what I meant with that line is precisely what I said just a couple of paragraphs up:

It’s absolutely acceptable to center a particularly oppressed group when talking about rape, especially when you belong to that group yourself. I find it entirely acceptable and even positive for women to focus on rape committed against women, and to not be constantly compelled to talk about men, who are in a position of relative privilege. I find it similarly acceptable and positive for trans* people of whatever gender to focus on rape committed against other trans* people, and to not be constantly harassed about caring more about cis survivors. I find it acceptable and positive for people with disabilities to talk about sexual violence specifically committed against other people with disabilities, and to not have to deal with constant reminders that abled people are raped, too.

I don’t expect trans* folks to care about rape against cis women like myself while they are fighting for their lives, and experiencing a much worse situation than I am, as I am in a relative position of privilege. Everyone is personally obliged to care about their own, unique marginalized experience more than they care about the experiences of those who are more privileged. Everyone is entitled to care about their own safety the most, so long as it does not endanger the safety of others.

That is all. I would never say that one kind of rape is not as real or as bad or as awful as any other. Different rapes have different effects — no two rapes are alike, and I think that it’s important to always keep those differences and their impact in mind and talk about them. But I don’t believe in categorizing some rapes as “worse” than others in any way. I think that’s an incredibly harmful and silencing practice, and would never engage in it myself. I’m sorry my words were understood that way.

24 Fenced July 19, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Thank you for your reply. That is what I hoped was the case. That line could just easily be misconstrued, even within the context of the rest of the article. I hope you did not see my post as trying to attack you- after my partners reaction to that particular line I had to ask for clarification. I can be an alpha female that way, so if I came off as abrasive I did not mean to. Again thank you for your speedy reply.

25 Meghan Murphy July 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Thanks for your response.
I think that, in this situation, pertaining to this blog post, I am guilty of several things, not least of which is a weak argument and a lack of clarity regarding my point.

I had not intended to attack you. The ‘fuck off’ was intended more towards a conversation, than it was towards any individual. It was directed towards the many, many people who jump into conversations about rape and domestic violence saying: ‘women beat men too’ and ‘women rape men too’ so that they don’t have to deal with the fact that actually, it is men beating women and raping women. I do not think that you are one of these people, though perhaps I misconstrued your article as potentially contributing to that argument.Considering the way in which my article was framed, I admit that this could have been misread.

The idea I have a problem with and was trying to address was this idea of equality that manipulates people into taking gender out of the equation, in an attempt to represent gendered violence as, well, not gendered. There is no equality. So to talk about rape as though it equally impacts men, I believe paints an inaccurate picture.

My intention, with this post, was to discuss my perspective of sexual violence against cis men by cis women, and I maintain that this is not an issue I wish to discuss within the same paragraph as a discussion around violence (sexual and otherwise) perpetrated on an abhorrent and massive basis against women everywhere. I was not attempting to write about men being raped and whether or not men can be victims of sexual violence, though I think I do point out that, yes, men are indeed raped and should have made clear that I most certainly do not believe that cis women are the only ones who are victims of rape.

I most certainly do not view rape as something that happens only against cis women. I do not view rape as something that is only perpetrated by penises do I mean to deny that queer and trans folks can be and are raped. You are very right to point out that trans people most certainly are raped because they are trans and queer people are raped because they are queer, men are raped (usually by other cis men) because, well, men are raped, and women, of course, are raped because they are women. My point. My point is also that, and I think we both agree on this, sexual violence is gendered. It is about power. And men hold power over women. Also. Hetero folks can hold power over queer folks and cis folks can hold power over trans folks, white people can hold power over pretty much anyone who isn’t white, and wealthy people pretty much always hold power over the poor. But rape, and I will say it over and over again, is still, primarily and sadly, a women’s issue. The prevalence of cis men raping cis women is just abominable. And it holds meaning. Because of power relations between men and women. Because women are still oppressed. Because patriarchy still rules. I’m going to keep saying this. Over and over again. Men rape women. Men beat women. And that matters. I know you know this. I don’t think I’m telling you anything new here. But I wrote this post because I still think it is important to reinforce this. Because to talk about men being raped by women and women being raped by men in the same paragraph, as though the two incidences hold equal power and meaning is to take away from the prevalence to which women are raped. And to remove from conversations about rape the fact that this violence against women demonstrates the way in which many men continue to view women and the way we as a society view women. As rapable.

So while in this post I am talking primarily about cis women raping cis men (though I do point out that men do rape other men as well). That does not mean that other rapes are not traumatic and significant and awful. I did not even attempt to breach the subject of female on female rape or male on male rape. I did not attempts to write an all encompassing post about rape. Nor would I ever do so. I do not believe I am well-equipped to do so.

I would also like to point out that I do not think, or write, that I think it is impossible for a man to be raped by a woman: “I do believe very strongly that people should be able to define their own experiences and therefore, if a man feels he has been raped by a woman, then it is rape.” I just don’t want to include it in the same conversation and maintain that a cis woman raping a cis man does not signify the same thing as a cis man raping a cis woman. Historical, social, cultural context tells us otherwise, as you know.

I also do not speak about body parts in my post. I point out the widely acknowledged and agreed upon fact that sexual assault is gendered and that power is the issue. NOT SEX. NOT PENISES. Power. In fact, I am specific about this in my post and say: “that rape is not about sex. It is about power.” I most certainly realize that people can be raped by “fingers and objects” and also that people can be raped without being penetrated by anything. I assumed that in speaking about rape, we know that penises are not the perpetrators. I do not once say the word ‘penis’ in my post and I do this for a reason. Because not all rapes happen with penises. Though many do. Many, many do.

I was surprised that the “Andrea Dworkin wrote about penetration (controversially, yes) and the way in which a man penetrating a woman has meaning, in Intercourse…” piece of my post was left out when you quote me as saying only: “A man can penetrate a woman. A man can penetrate a man. He has that power. A woman does not.” because I think that it warps my argument. Mostly because that is not my argument. It is Andrea Dworkin’s . That sentence was placed within context of an entire book, but instead, I feel was framed as and then criticized as though I have some kind of obsession with penises being the only things capable of perpetrating rapes and representing me as someone who thinks rape is all about body parts. Partly because I have been violated by penises, I do happen to see male on female penetration in a problematic way. But I have also been violated without actually being penetrated. That does not mean that we cannot talk about the significance of penetration. And I still think we can still talk about penetration and mean penetration. And talk about the significance of a man penetrating a women and the idea of women being penetratable.

Not only did you project all sorts of ideas, beliefs, and judgments onto my post that are simply not true, but you go on to say: “As for me, here is in large part where I think that Murphy and I differ: She seems to think that our goal ought to be to end rape as a specifically gendered crime committed by men against women. I think our goal should be to end rape.” But Cara, this is most certainly not where we differ. I don’t believe it is ok for anyone to be raped. When we talk about rape, though, I do not think it is, at this point in time, helpful to talk about men raping women and women raping men interchangeably. I will not have a conversation about women being raped and include in that conversation, “but it goes both ways”. That does not mean that I think there are only ‘two ways’ it can go, either. I do thank you, though, for pointing out that this was missing from my argument.

To imply that I wish to: “Reduc[e] rape to “non-consensual penis in orifice” is so, so unfair and innaccurate. Nor did I make it “obvious in [my] article that…rape is all about body parts.”, although female bodies matter when it comes to power – sexual power, social power, you know, power, partly because of what is projected onto women’s bodies by pop culture, pornography, by the male gaze, and by men.

Despite it’s title, my post was not intended to be about whether or not it was possible for a woman to rape a man. Rather, I felt frustrated by attempts to talk about sexual violence as though it isn’t about men raping women. I was not trying to talk about whether or not a man could be raped by a man, or a woman by a woman, or a woman by an object. That does not instantly imply that I do not believe these violations to be rape. I linked to your post because you wrote about the Lil Wayne issue in a way that, yes, I took issue with to a certain extent, because you go so far as to define his experience as rape, though he does not define it as such. And because you seemed to have used his experience, and your definition of his experience as rape, as a jumping off point for a discussion about cis women raping cis men. It was not because I believe that you are some kind of “Men’s Rights Activist troll” nor is it because I am “the kind of rape apologist who denies others’ experiences and puts the word “rape” in scare quotes to invalidate its meaning and realness.”

I still don’t think that the concept of a cis woman raping a cis man is anywhere near the same thing as a cis man raping a cis woman. I don’t. And I’m still not really interested in talking about it. I think in blurs the lines in an unhelpful way.

More truth. I don’t want to write a blog like your blog. I want to write a blog that is like MY blog. I don’t represent the thoughts or opinions of any other collective members, not do I represent all or any feminists. Just me. Me, being a feminist, who desires a closer look at inequality, discrimination, oppression, marginalization, representation, femininity, masculinity, gender, and, yes, women. I think about women, look at women, talk about women. That’s not because they are the only ones who exist in the world, or because I think all else is invisible, but it is because I identify as a woman, and I am interested in me. And them. I’m a Women’s Studies major. Into the study of the women. It is very true that I am guilty of many biases. I am heterosexual, white, monogamous, educated and able bodied, among holding other various privileges, all of which contribute to my viewing sex and gender from this perspective. So I appreciate you pointing out the heteronormative foundation of my post and I will continue to work towards looking outside of my little, tiny box.

Clearly when I write the kind of post that you took issue with (I certainly do view it as an attack), I expect a certain amount of anger. I at least expect folks to disagree with me. I don’t really see the point of ‘attacking’ or trying to ‘take down’ other feminists. I also believe that I was widely misrepresented and that, instead of simply countering my argument, you attacked me as a person. A person who I am not.

26 Cara July 20, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Thanks, Fenced. Again, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding and glad that we were able to work it out.

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