12/08/2006

Female Feminists and Male Rape Survivors

Via belledame, Abyss2hope (who ever that is, still kinda miffed by the whole "money + troubles --> horribly misogynistic and racist porn sponsorship" non-logic thingie so have been avoiding alas slightly more intentionally than I had been back when I merely got bored of getting pissed off at the troll infestations that spontaneously occur at MaleFeminist blogs like white rappers back in the heyday of eminem's popularity).

Anyway, to spare those of you who are more faithfully keeping up the blogbargo on alas let me repring the post in full here:

This is in response to Richard Jeffrey Newman’s comment about male survivors of sexual abuse/assault being left out of the sexual-assault discourse.

It’s a real problem that merits attention. Too often it gets mentioned as a way to attack efforts to fight sexual violence directed at girls and women or as an excuse to attack feminism or feminists. That exploits male victims and they deserve better.

Unless RJN loosens the restrictions, comments can only be made by male survivors.


The comment referred to goes a little something like this:

Daran:

I still find her characterisation of those who advocate for the admission of male rape victims to the discourse as “wankers” who “whine” to be offensive. “Respect” is not a one-way street.


You know, Daran, as a man who was sexually abused when I was a child, I have quite a lot of sympathy for a position that is critical of the way in which men are often left out of the sexual-assault discourse, feminist or otherwise. When I was in my late teens and early 20s and just beginning to come to awareness of what had been done to me, no one, and I mean no one, was talking about the fact that boys were sexually abuse; people were just beginning to acknowledge publicly the degree to which it happened to girls; and the one or two pieces I was able to find in the library where I was going to school focused, at least in my memory, on the common (mis)perception that boys who were sexually abused by men were most likely to grow up to be homosexual. I was, my experience was, rendered almost entirely invisible and that hurt.

I would love, therefore, the opportunity to be part of a conversation among men about what it means to be a male survivor of rape and other forms of sexual assault that takes as its starting point not the fact that feminism does not include men in its discourse, which is where you inevitably start these discussions, but rather our experience of men of being sexually violated (and, yes, also of having our experiences dismissed, etc. and so on). Instead of trying to muscle your way into feminist discourse, or trying to force feminist discourse open in a way that is antithetical to feminism itself, why not do the work of developing a discourse about the male survivors you claim to care so much about that will remove the need for the adversarial stance you take because it will have the kind of integrity that will inherently command the respect not only of feminists, but of anyone who wants to talk about sexual abuse as a phenomenon?

That discourse does not now exist in our cultural imagination, or it does so only barely. Carving out a space for it would be valuable work indeed, far more valuable than coming here and derailing conversations that are started with the entirely valid intent of focusing on women because what is being talked about takes place, by your own admission in other posts, overwhelmingly in the realm of female experience.


Okay, now that that's all out of the way, let me add:

First of all the comment by daran is bullshit, bullshit through and through, male rape survivors are not actually excluded from the discourse or the feminist movement as a whole - what is excluded is this idea that female feminists have to actually do someting about rape that is experienced by men beyond what is being done to fight and combat rape as a society wide problem that (and do excuse me for stating the obvious here) disproprotionately affects women.

Now don't take that the wrong way, I don't mean that we need to "prioritise" or anything of that sort, what I mean is that, and this may just be because I haven't actually done much thought about it, I can't realy think of much that female feminists can really add to any such struggle against the rape of men.

This comes on the heels of the fact that most feminists groups, activist or otherwise, are pretty thinly stretched trying to put a torneque on the wounds that Bush's America has give to all women, and there isn't much we can even add to discussion about the rape of men, we're not men, we don't come from a male social perspective (yes I object to the transphobia of MWMF, my views about "male" and "female" social perspectives are, suffice to say, a bit more complex than "if you once had a peepee get the hell out of our music fest, you, you, non-woman person!") so even those of us who have survived rape can only add general advice and help, help and advice which has pretty much already been given afaik.

And then there's the current tact of the "vanilla" anti-rape movements (i.e. those that focus almost exclusively on the rape of women by men), which is making the whole thing much more, ahem, "male dominated", in the sense that men are gradually being more routinely given the responsibility of controlling their behavior and are admirably beginning to take up the slack that has been given men by their society with regards to dealing with rape, so that even the "vanilla" anti-rape movement is putting the focus of dealing with rape on the backs of men.

Finally there's the biggest problem - which is that for all the MRA's constant talk about how feminists don't care about male rape survivors, fighting against rape and for the female victims of rape isn't exactly a gender specific task, any so-called-feminist who seriously put forth the arguement that any rape survivors, of either gender, some how deserved to get raped or is at all to blame for getting raped, would promptly be looking for their teeth in the gutter after an actual feminist punched them in the jaw for being an anti-feminist toolbag.

We're working against rape, and the cause of rape doesn't change and won't be dealt with in different ways with regards to gender - blaming the rapists, attacking heteronormitive and misogynistic social diseases like the myth of "fragile masculinity" that produces the rapists in the first place - and all of these things are being done by female feminists already.

Now I'm not saying that women don't have any part in discussions or movements that focus on male rape, or that it isn't our concern what happens between men, but I personally (and as I say, this may be my own lack of imagination more than anything else) can't think of much that we can really add to such things.

Any thoughts?

3 comments:

Talking said...

Very nicely put, R. What I hear you saying is that you are worried most about women's victimization because most victims are women. I also hear you saying that efforts to mitigate assaults on the majority of victims can be expected to benefit all victims. Particularly if the strategy used successfully puts the responsibility on perpetrators. That all makes total sense.

Despite the solid validity of that position I'd like to advance a pair of strategic reasons for including male victims in the narrative: to knock men out of their complacent "not my problem" inability to identify with victims and, just as important, to knock them out of proprietary Galahadism.

Both of those positions are forms of denial that, if left unaddressed, make it much more difficult to deliver messages aimed at getting men to police themselves.

And also, I'm sorry to report from personal experience, the inattentive mind easily conflates the accurate "the majority of victims are women" with the inaccurate "only women are victims." Consequently it wasn't recognized in my neighborhood that the bully who forced boys and young men to put their mouths on his genitals was raping them instead of just bullying them in a particularly humiliating fashion. I say I'm sorry to report this because *I* didn't recognize it either until decades later.

I don't believe the bullies in my neighborhood were at all, at all unique, which implies that the commonly reported 10% fraction may be understated. But I *also* don't believe the victims in my neighborhood were at all unique either, which implies that there are a lot of men who may go around *sympathizing* with women (if they even do that) who, with just a blink of realization, could suddenly (and, I think, inescapably) *identifying* with them.

Oh yeah, and finally, it's worth pointing out that at least one of the neighborhood bullies with an unrecognized-as-such propensity for sexual violence moved on to serial date rape and, later, profound domestic violence. If I felt merely *sympathetic* to the women he victimized I might draw all sorts of trite lessons about "a stitch in time" or "there but for fortune go I." Instead, understanding what I now do, I'm able to strongly *identify* with victims and near victims. And understanding what i now do, I'm far more motivated to support shifting responsibility to where it belongs.

So. In other words I'm proposing inclusion of men as victims *not* in order to gain sympathy for them but to more easily *recruit* them.

If this seems like a back-door attempt to say "but men get raped too" I'll be happy to back off. But I'd like to ask you to take a minute to make sure that's all I'm really up to.

belledame222 said...

well for me, there are a couple of angles here, which come before the usual interpretations of "What About The Menz?" i think, much as yes, i do take adult male survivors of female-partner abuse seriously. Too.

But, one, I would really really REALLY like to see more intersection between queer activism and feminism. Factor in men abused by other men (gay or otherwise) and suddenly you're talking about a lot more people than you were with the heteronorm assumptions.

Numero two-o, there is an -excellent- reason for feminists to pay more attention to -child abuse- of boychildren, namely:

The boychildren grow up into men;

and, seeing as how abuse tends to beget abuse (helped along by hegemonic structures of oppression as they may be), those men would tend to be the ones who are the abusers and rapists.

strike the root.

Bitch | Lab said...

what belledame said. i think there are parallels with the way I experienced so much silencing re: abuse among women in lesbian/bi communities.

there was a weird point in this rant, though, where i was nodding and saying thank you, here:

what is excluded is this idea that female feminists have to actually do someting about rape that is experienced by men beyond what is being done to fight and combat rape as a society wide problem that (and do excuse me for stating the obvious here) disproprotionately affects women.


And I was saying, "yes!"

but then I thought, well, I'm not so sure. I mean, I agree that practically our resources are stretched pretty thin. But the real issue is *How* rape is understood. When it's seen from a radical feminist perspective, it is true that it is simply papered over. It is rolled into the whole "women's oppression is the first form of oppression and everything else that happenes is a direct result of that oppression: class, race, everything, including the way men treat each other in status hierachies, dominance games, etc.

I think there are two, possibly more, kinds of complaints from men. some of it is whining. some of it is a power play, an attempt by an MRA who doesn't otherwise much give a shit to score points in a debate.

But there are genuine things going on for some men who do try to change the tenor of public discussion, who do want to bridge these divides, when they come up against a position that will see them as the enemy trying to gum up the radical feminist works from the git go.

but anyway, i have to get back to work. no time to truly elaborate, just some quick thoughts about what went through my head.

i guess what i'm saying is that some proponents of some version of rad fem theory are like inversions of marxist economic determinism, which turns out to be pretty unhelpful to explaining or even describing a much more complicated society.