Not too long ago we saw that the people of Toronto have no sympathy for a male rape victim. In a disgusting display the Toronto Twitterverse summarily dismissed the idea of a male rape victim by telling him he should be so lucky as to be attacked by four women, that he was lying, that he was gay or a prostitute, and that his victimisation doesn’t matter.
Cretins like Rosie DiManno came forward to say that “one man’s sexual assault is another man’s fantasy come true” and display a fundamentally flawed understanding of the very basic understanding of what rape is. Rape is forced, unwanted sexual interaction. You cannot want to be raped, because if you wanted it, it wouldn’t be rape.
The man, who decided (for what seems to be good reason considering the amount of ridicule he received) to stay anonymous, was a laughing stock to his peers, men and women who thought simply that a man can’t be raped. This reaction leaves me wondering just how many male rape victims have refused to step forward or seek police intervention or even counselling simply because they have been told time and time again that a man cannot be a rape victim, that they should have enjoyed it, or that in the stereotype of a man always wanting sex they were asking for it simply by being male.
With all of the time, energy, funding, and attention that is given to preventing rape why is it that the average Joe or Jane still can’t wrap their head around this?
Well first let’s take a quick look at the definition of rape. Until recently this was what Google returned:
Google’s victims are gender neutral; however, their aggressors are male.
A Google Image search for “how to stop rape” also brings up countless images where men who might otherwise be aggressors are told not to rape or are congratulated on stopping when told.
What is surprising is the heteronormative gender binary approach to rape as a topic. Men rape, women are raped. There is very little discussion in between for men who are raped by men, women who are raped by women, and men who are raped by women, like the victim in Toronto.
The response I’ve heard is that because the number of rapes that is reported in these scenarios is lower that it isn’t worth the time. I can think of one young man whose experience and entire existence was deemed worthless by the internet who might disagree. This notion may also be a beast that feeds itself: if no attention is given to these matters because they are reported less, when it does occur victims might be less likely to report it because they have no concept of a precedent.
If we want to do right by victims like Toronto’s John Doe we need to break away from this male vs. female conversation. In schools, posters, and awareness campaigns we need to stop addressing men as aggressors and potential aggressors and women as victims or potential victims. Instead we need to think about it simply as rapists and victims outside of their genders.
You’ve heard a thousand times before that rape isn’t about sex (sexual intercourse in this sense) but instead about power. Power isn’t limited to one sex or gender. The idea that “we need to teach men not to rape” ignores scores of victims who don’t fit into that construct and encourages the mentality that men and boys can’t also be victims like what we saw happen in the aftermath of the Toronto gang rape victim.
My heart goes out to this poor soul in the hopes that someday in the future a man can come forward as a victim without being victimised continually through social media and the press for simply being the wrong gender to feel sorry for.
Until then we need to teach people that rape is a genderless crime.