If you are offended by graphic descriptions of sexual activity, please do not read further.
He found her alone in a parking lot. He forced himself on her.
He took her out to dinner. In the course of the dinner he dropped a few date rape pills into her drink, after which he proceeded to rape her.
We don’t hesitate in calling these two situations rape: the man forced the woman to have sex with him, or reduced her to a state in which she was not in a state of mind to give consent. It’s as clear as day.
Now, picture this:
He asks her out to dinner. She slips date rape drugs into his drinks, and they have sex.
Do you want to call this a rape, and forget legal definitions and delineations for the time being?
In the United States, there are a number of statistics that clearly outline the extent of the problem. A 2013 survey conducted in 40,000 households found that 38% of reported rapes were against men. Worse, despite knowing the prevalence of sexual assault in prisons, rapes in jails or juvenile reform homes are not considered into this data. Then there is a third category that the US Center for Disease Control had to conjure: “being made to penetrate”. This goes against our understanding of male sexuality as being “always on” – if a man has an erection, he must have wanted to have sex, which assumes consent and willingness implicitly.
This is not the case, and it is borne out by the fact that physiological signs of arousal do not indicate psychological arousal, let alone consent. More importantly, penetration alone cannot decide who the perpetrator and victim of the crime are: according to another survey, 46% of male victims of sexual crimes said that the perpetrators were women. Penetration cannot be the sole criterion for crimes against the bodily integrity of a human being: there can be sexual assault as damaging as or more damaging than anal, oral or vaginal penetration.
One could argue that this all fine and dandy for liberated, sexualized America, and India still has not managed to free itself of its sexual and cultural mores enough to conceptualize and execute such crimes. I believe that though the facts stated are correct, the conclusion reached in the previous sentence is precisely opposite to what is actually happening: gender roles are rigid; power distance is high; the society is hierarchical; and we as a culture celebrate hypermasculinity – all ingredients for inducing guilt and shame if one does not conform to this cultural model. Add to it a little chemistry, literal as well as figurative, and the potential results – rape, sexual assault, incest – become much more easily explainable.
Men are victims of sexual assault crimes, and in all probability as much as women are – the fact that a crime does not get reported does not mean the crime did not occur. And the fact that we are talking about it does not mean we are trying to detract from the equal heinousness of women getting raped – after all, raising awareness cannot be a one-dimensional activity. True feminists would agree that rape is a human crime, and all victims or survivors of rape need justice to get past their trauma.
It bears repetition: we have to throw out our traditional mode of thinking about rape as being directed from the male to the female, even if it seems to be too trivial an issue especially in the face of the many cases of gang rapes of women in the recent past. However, those crimes do not justify that the crimes against men must go unreported, or that those victims never get justice: considering that in another survey, 89% juveniles reporting sexual misconduct were cases of female staff assaulting young boys, it is unconscionable on our part to see nine victims out of ten simply being legislated away.
(Image credit: Survivors UK)