After he is bitten by a radioactive common house spider, Peter Parker develops a number of remarkable abilities, including the ability to detect both vague and imminent dangers. Whenever danger lurks nearby, Spider-Man experiences a tingling at the base of his skull, which can range in intensity from a slight tickle to indicate an enemy is nearby to a full-blown, almost painful burst of awareness that tells him a lethal threat is about to present itself.
Reading this article at the Atlantic has my spidey-senses on full alert.
Don Draper Was Raped
Mad Men’s non-consensual encounter between a young, frightened Dick Whitman and a prostitute didn’t generate as much chatter as its gender-reversed scenario might have. Why?
I know who Don Draper is, and I’m aware of the general premise of Mad Men, but I have never seen the show. From the writer’s description of the episode, it seems fairly straightforward that yes, the young Don Draper was raped, depending upon your definition of raped. Abigail Rine, who wrote the piece, is somewhat startled when her research makes her aware that there is something very, very wrong with our definition of rape as it stands.
She’s right, but for more reasons that just the ones she gives.
Both the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the FBI use a definition of rape that is both explicitly and implicitly feminized:
“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
The definition is explicitly feminized because it includes the word “vagina”, which obviously men do not have. It is implicitly feminized because the victim is defined by “penetration”, which strongly implies “penis”.
Victim = woman
Rapist = man
Can men be raped under this definition? Absolutely. Hugo Schwyzer is a big fan of the strap-on, and that object could be used to penetrate a man against his will. Not easily, mind you, but it’s possible.
The problem with this definition is that it does not reflect how men are sexually assaulted in real life: being raped tends to mean “being forced to penetrate”. And how common is that?
To me, one of the more startling findings of the NIPSVS [National Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Survey] is this: In the 12 months prior to taking the survey 1.26 million men (1.1 percent) had been “made to penetrate,” and that number is almost identical to the 1.27 million women (also 1.1 percent) estimated to have been raped during the same time period. If these numbers are anywhere near accurate, this paints a significantly different portrait of sexual violence in the U.S. than what I’m used to seeing.
The made to penetrate data is on page 19 of the report, if you are interested in confirming that information.
The idea that men can be forced to penetrate someone against their will does not show up very often in popular culture, and even when it does, it is dismissed as something trivial and inconsequential. When a boy recounts his experience of being made to penetrate a girl while drunk, in the presence of others, who take pictures of the assault on their phones, feminist writers brush his experience off as just having bad sex with the wrong people.
We know what happens when men do that to women.
The Don Draper episode was met with silence in the media, with a notable exception at the Guardian, who claimed Don wasn’t raped, he wanted it!
He remembered that, when feverish as a youth, he had been cared for by a hooker with a heart, Aimee Swanson. Not only that, but she took his cherry. (For no given reason, it has to be said, beyond the usual “do you like girls?” male wish-fulfillment guff; but taken all the same.) Aimee knew what young Dick really wanted and was prepared to do what was necessary to give it to him.
You can well imagine that if the genders were reversed and it was 16 year old Aimee being “taken” by adult Don Draper, there would be national outcry and no one would dare to say Don “knew what young Aimee really wanted and was prepared to do what was necessary to give it to her”.
Reading the accounts of men having been raped on the Good Men Project, what immediately struck me was the men’s passivity in the face of assault. James Landrith was raped by a pregnant woman, so his passivity is very understandable. He was not going to attack a pregnant woman.
Levi Greenacres was completely incapacitated by alcohol. He WANTED to resist, but was physically incapable of doing so, and his attacker appears to have been a rather fit, strong woman who easily carried his 250 lb dead weight body.
Both of those examples are very likely outliers. Of the million men who were forced to penetrate a woman against their will in the NIPSVS, I doubt very many of them were facing down pregnant or physically imposing women. It can happen, absolutely.
But I think something else is at play, and it’s exactly why I’m uncomfortable with the new definition of rape. It’s absolutely important that we tackle the idea that men can’t be raped, and that an erection is a sign of consent. How could he get hard if he wasn’t in to it?
In our culture, male sexuality is overwhelmingly depicted as powerful, dominant, invulnerable, and sexually insatiable. Our more cartoonish notions of gender, found everywhere from deodorant commercials to bromantic comedies, perpetuate the idea that men are little more than walking boners, always up for sex. And, even though science has demonstrated otherwise, the misconception that an erection implies consent–that a man, in fact, can’t penetrate unwillingly–is still commonplace.
Yes, we want to confront this caricature of men, but there is a trap waiting to spring, depending on HOW we do that. The reality is that men, in general, have an option that women, on average, do not.
They can physically fight back, and they are likely to win.
There are some damn good reasons men DO not fight back under intimate partner violence scenarios, the most obvious being that even if the entire rape is caught on camera and the fact that the man does NOT consent is incontrovertibly clear, if he punches the woman, he is the one who will likely be punished.
That tends to be the result, no matter what the conditions of the assault.
Men are also deeply conditioned to not hit or hurt women, even when they are being attacked. For many men, the idea of hitting a woman, even one who is in the process of raping them, is unthinkable.
There are two approaches to the problem: accept that men will be passive in the face of assault by a woman, or create a culture in which women are held responsible for their assaults and must prepare to face the consequences.
Here is where my Spidey-senses really start to tingle. On the one hand, I very much like living in a world in which men generally think they shouldn’t hit women. The price of that is accepting that when women assault men, men are generally not going to fight back with full or even any force.
But pick an assault, any type of assault. Any kind of violent crime. Women get charged and convicted far less often than men, and even when they are convicted, they receive preferential treatment and reduced penalties.
Of all offenders convicted in U.S. district courts in 2003, 82.8 percent of the males were sentenced to prison but only 57.5 percent of the females. Among offenders convicted of violent crimes, 95.0 percent of the males and 76.4 percent of the females were incarcerated. For these offenses, the average sentence was 90.7 months for men and 42.5 months for women (Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online 2003 N.d., tables 5.20.2003 and 5.21.2000).
Do we really think that accepting complete passivity in the face of sexual assault is going to be any different? For every man who refuses to hit a pregnant woman, even when she is raping him, there will be thousands of women who will claim they were raped, even though they gave absolutely no indication that they did not consent, and offered no resistance of any kind.
And that is the trap I fear will spring.
Look at this account of a woman being “raped”. It’s fucking ridiculous. It’s past ridiculous! It’s outrageous!
She said that soon afterward Dixon penetrated her and she was in pain and unable to move. She said Dixon asked her to turn around so he could penetrate her from behind, which she did. When asked by the investigating officer if she ever tried to stop Dixon, she said “she had just let it happen and she did not know why.” She said she was not afraid of being struck by Dixon.
According to the report, the woman said Dixon stopped after about 20 minutes and she reached for her pajama pants. She said that when Dixon asked why she was trying to put on her pants, she replied, “because this was never supposed to happen in the first place.” She said she went to the bathroom, and when she returned Dixon asked her to perform oral sex on him. She said she told him no, and then Dixon asked her to masturbate him, which she did. She stated “she didn’t know why she did.
Let’s go back to the definition of rape. It needs to be updated to remove the presumption that men are rapists and women are victims by including the forced penetration scenario. But it needs something else, too. The previous definition of rape included the clause “forcibly and against her will”. That was the wording that triggered the redefinition in the first place. “Her” denies that men are victims. But in throwing out the whole clause, the definition removes any requirement to clearly communicate lack of consent, and it removes any requirement to resist.
I went along with everything he said and I don’t know why. I wasn’t afraid he would hurt me. But now I would like to see him jailed for a few years and have his career and reputation destroyed.
That is what I think is going to happen.
I would like to see a definition that acknowledges that women can rape men by forcing them to penetrate a body when they do not wish to, but I would also like to see the requirement to resist brought back.
Rape is sexual contact by either penetrating, or by forcing penetration, of a person, forcibly, and against their will.
While I understand the reasons that men might reactive passively to sexual assault, I am very wary of accepting complete passivity as a defense. I think it will be used against men far more often than it is used to defend them. The reality is that most men can defend themselves. I don’t accept “I was socialized to be passive and sweet and quiet” as a defense from women, and I don’t accept “I was socialized not to hit girls” as a defense from men, either.
When the girl in question is raping you, feel free to use whatever force is required to stop that from happening. She’s a rapist first, and that is what you should be responding to.
I am interested in other perspectives on this issue. I am completely willing to consider that I may not have taken all factors into account. I am willing to consider that I might be utterly mistaken here. I am willing to change my mind.
Unlike Peter, I was not bitten by a radioactive spider, and my senses could be dead wrong.
Lots of love,