A Philosopher's Blog

Defining Rape IV: Men as Victims of Women

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics, Universities & Colleges by Michael LaBossiere on July 2, 2014
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In my previous essay, I ended by noting that while college men are the victims of sexual assault by college women, this matter is rarely mentioned. It certainly does not get the attention of the mainstream media. Perhaps because this would run afoul of the current media narrative regarding the rape epidemic on campus.

Of course, it might be claimed that men cannot, in general, be victims of women. One common view is that men are not at all picky about sex and a man would be fine with a woman taking advantage of him while he was drunk or unconscious. Or, somewhat less extreme is the view that while a man might not be fine with it, he would not be too put out by it. He might feel some embarrassment if the woman was unattractive or might be angry if she gave him a STD, but he (some might claim) would not be psychologically harmed in the way a woman would be harmed. The gist is that men are psychologically incapable of being raped by woman—that is, a man would always consent or, at the very least, would not be very bothered by the sex.

Even if this were true (which it is not), the fact that a victim of a crime is not as upset as other victims might be would not seem to make it less of a crime. To use an analogy, if Sally is a stoic and is not very upset when her car is stolen, this does not make it any less of a theft than if she was distraught over the loss. As such, even if men are not as bother by women, this would not entail that men are not or cannot be victims. In any case, as will be shown, men are generally not cool with being assaulted by women—despite the bravado and stereotypes.

Another approach is to argue that men and women are fundamentally different so that women cannot (in general) rape men. Some people think that a man cannot become erect if he does not wish to do so and hence it is impossible for a man to have heterosexual intercourse without his consent. However, this view is on par with claiming that men have an ability to “shut down” an erection when it is a case of “legitimate” rape. This is, unfortunately, no more true than the claim that a woman can shut down a pregnancy when she is the victim of a “legitimate rape.”

Yet another counter is to claim that while women could sexual victimize men, it does not happen that often—if at all. This would, if true, be wonderful. Sadly, it is not true.

While it is rarely discussed and never seems to grab headlines, college men are subject to sexual victimization by college women and are emotionally harmed by it.  While men are often presented as happy to have sex with anyone at any time, this is not true and men can be as hurt by sexual victimization as women. So, to claim that a man wants to be raped by a woman is just as awful as claiming that a woman wants to be raped by a man. While it might be true of some, it is certainly not true of most.

In a mostly ignored study, 51.2% of college males reported being sexually victimized (ranging from unwanted sexual contact, to sexual coercion to rape). Naturally, given that sexual violence is often unreported and men are extremely likely not to admit to being assaulted by a woman, the number of cases could be quite large. But, of course, it is not possible to make an estimate since this would require claiming to know what is unknown. This does not, of course, stop some people from making estimates about unreported assaults on women.

Interestingly, being “made to penetrate” is not legally classified as a form of rape. Thus, by this definition, a woman forcing a man to have sex with her is not rape. But if a man commits the same act with an unwilling woman, it is rape. This seems to allow sexual victimization of men by women to be dismissed as less serious than the victimization of women by men, all by definition. To use an analogy, this would be like saying that when a man steals from a woman, it is theft. When a woman steals from a man, it is involuntary lending.

While men are generally not subject to being forcibly raped by women, women do pursue other tactics that mirror those of male rapists including selecting victims who are impaired or unconscious. If having sex with a woman by these means is rape, then having sex with a man by these means should also be rape.

It might also be claimed that women are not inclined to sexual violence. While the stereotypes cast men as victimizer and women as victims, the terrible truth is that sexual violence is equal opportunity. As the National Geographic reported, a study determined that males and females commit roughly the same amount of sexual violence by the time they reach the age of 18. This is certainly consistent with the claim that college men are subject to sexual assault by women. As such, evil does not discriminate based on sex.

At this point I might be accused of having nefarious motivations or of playing the old “victim switch” tactic to get men off the hook. However, my goals are merely to insist on a consistent standard when it comes to sexual assault and to call attention to an important truth: sexual victimization is an equal opportunity crime. I am not asserting that we should dismiss or ignore the assaults on women. Rather, I am saying that we should not be blinded to the fact that men are victims as well. If the campus rape epidemic is going to be stopped, we cannot be concerned with just the victims who are women and just the victimizers who are men.

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4 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on July 3, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Good post. Men and women need to be held to the same standard. Feminists need to understand that women are no better (and no worse) than men.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 4, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      There seem to be two broad camps of feminists. Crudely put, some are what could be called ethical or consistent feminists-they operate based on a commitment to moral principles that they apply regardless of sex. Roughly put, the other camp consists of what could be called power or inconsistent feminists-they apply their principles one way to men and another way to women (though they might contend that they are consistent and argue that there are relevant differences between men and women that warrant a different application). One factor that might differentiate the camps is the evidence they are willing to consider and what they ignore.

      Assuming the data is accurate, men and women are both victims and violators when it comes to sexual assault. Somewhat ironically, the assaults on men are often dismissed on what would seem to be sexist grounds-that is, that a man always “wants it” (which echoes men saying that women “want it”).

      Another area of inconsistency (or so it seems) is in higher education. I’ve written a bit about the fact that men are now a minority in higher education. Some feminists now tout that women are the majority while ignoring the fact that when women were the minority, this was regarded as wrong and sexist. There are some feminists who are concerned with this. I do, of course, consider that the difference could be perfectly fair (it is only unjust if men who want to go to college are being wrongfully denied the chance-if the men freely choose not to go, then there is not a moral problem here). After all, there are plenty of areas that have gender imbalances that arise from free choice.

  2. georgefinnegan said, on July 3, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    A well written piece with information that really needs to get into the mainstream consciousness. Thanks!


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