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A male survivor’s perspective on “rape culture”

April 16, 2013
By
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Click on this image for a link to Male Survivor. They can help you understand more about the rape culture and you as a child victim

NCFM NOTE: Many MRA’s are MRAs because they were childhood victims of sexual assault. Many were sexually assaulted by their mothers, female babysitters, teachers… Such abuse is not uncommon, it’s just been taboo to talk about it. What follows is a worthwhile read from poetry, dreams, and the body a blog by Rick Belden, author of Iron Man Family Outing… Please read, go to the post, and comment.  This issue and post deserve attention. Please comment here too for the benefit of our readers.

A male survivor’s perspective on “rape culture”

An article titled Rape Culture: What It Is and How It Works” posted on the Good Men Project website earlier this week prompted me to leave the following comment:

The “rape culture” terminology, as I’ve typically seen it applied, brands all men and boys as potential or latent assailants and perpetrators who need to be “taught not to rape.” Any man who somehow resists the inborn imperative to rape is nevertheless still considered responsible for all the men who don’t. Many boys and men who’ve been sexually violated, who are often already carrying the secret and undeserved burden of psychological responsibility for what someone else did to them, will quite naturally respond to these characterizations by retreating even deeper into the familiar phantom zone of feeling shamed, scorned, disowned, and scapegoated by the culture around them.

This, in turn, makes taking the risk of seeking help feel even more daunting. The first group I ever attended for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse was held at the local rape crisis center. I remember arriving for the first meeting one evening after work. I was so terrified. I’d been in my share of men’s groups, which helped me feel a bit safer, but I’d never spoken about that part of my history in a group of strangers. The walk from the parking lot to the front door seemed to take every ounce of strength I had.

I’ll never forget the looks I received from the women I encountered as I crossed the parking lot and entered the building. Hostility would be putting it mildly. I shrunk even further into my shell as I took a seat on one of the couches in the small waiting room, trying not to make eye contact with anyone, but I could feel the hot, disapproving glare of every woman who spotted me there.

I happened to be a bit early, and as my male peers in the group began to trickle into the waiting room and take their seats, I felt some of the energy being directed at me starting to dissipate as the focus widened from me as an individual to us (men) as a group. Safety in numbers. But I still felt profoundly unwelcome in a space where I was seeking refuge.

Over the weeks, as the group went on, the heat vision stares subsided a bit as some of the women became more accustomed to seeing us come and go once a week. We were quietly and reluctantly tolerated, if not welcomed. Discussing and processing, as a group, the experience of being treated like invaders or enemies when we were already feeling so raw, fragile, small, scared, and ashamed helped greatly. I could understand the attitude, given the “men are perpetrators, not victims” orthodoxy of the time and the likelihood that at least some of the women felt profoundly unsafe around men due to personal history. I could allow for all of that, but it didn’t make screwing up the courage to face the unearned anger, scorn, and disdain every week any less of a challenge.

The group, I’m happy to say, was excellent and made passing through the emotional and psychological gauntlet on the way in well worth the effort. The therapist who facilitated, a male, was terrific. He showed real vision and courage in proposing the establishment of a group for male survivors in that environment. I’ll always be grateful to him for that as well as to whoever it was at the center (probably a woman or women) who gave him the green light to go ahead. After the first eight weeks or so, he found a new location for us to meet, a “neutral” place, and it was a relief. I still felt anxious before each group, but the likelihood of receiving death stares (or potentially something worse) in the parking lot and waiting room was thankfully no longer a worry.

I’ve gone on far longer here than I anticipated, so I’ll close with two more points.

First, two members of my extended family were involved in the sexual violation I experienced as a child. One was a man. One was a woman. Both genders. Both involved.

Second, if you view my video poem “secret children” on this site (http://goodmenproject.com/health/the-secret-children), you will notice that there is no mention whatsoever of gender or privilege with regard to either victims or perpetrators. Countless innocent men and boys have been and are being abused and violated, and I feel that using terms like “rape culture” and “male privilege” obscures that reality and contributes to the ongoing exclusion of these men and boys from the conversation.

While I see and understand the effort on the part of the author of this post and some of those who’ve commented to expand the definition of “rape culture” to include those men and boys, from my perspective that term is already hopelessly tainted by what I’ve seen as its more commonly used, more restrictive definition (i.e., men are rapists, women are victims) and therefore I don’t see how it can be successfully reframed at this point.

I generally try to steer clear of the charged comment streams and messy, unproductive dogma dogfights I’ve seen so often in response to articles primarily focused on advancing a specific social ideology, but the increasingly common and ever more prevalent use of “rape culture” terminology has been eating at me for a while now and I finally felt it was time to express my point of view, for better or worse.

I’ll admit to feeling a fair amount of anxiety about what sort of reaction my comment might generate. I felt like I’d gone way out on a limb (or maybe marched headlong into a swamp), not only in challenging the “rape culture” paradigm but also in sharing some deeply personal experience I’d never shared before. It’s not easy for a man to go on the record with such things. The fearful voice that tells me I should keep quiet and invisible is always there with me.

It’s been nearly 24 hours now since I posted my comment and there’s been only one response, from another man who left a brief message of support. I don’t know what to make of the silence. I’m certainly not disappointed that no one’s come at me (the part of me that feels safer being invisible is pretty relieved) and I don’t want to exaggerate the significance of the situation, but the near absence of response to what I had to say in a comment stream that continues to be pretty active has me wondering, yet again, just how interested people really are in the experiences and challenges faced by male survivors of sexual violation and abuse.

41177The rape culture includes rapists without a penis.

The Rape Culture Industry generally ignores male victims of female rape.

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10 Responses to A male survivor’s perspective on “rape culture”

  1. Cletus Balzer on June 6, 2018 at 9:46 AM

    Can I simply say what a relief to discover someone that really understands what they are discussing on the net. You actually know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people should check this out and understand this side of your story. I can’t believe you are not more popular because you surely have the gift.

  2. Alae on June 4, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    We do live in a rape culture, but that’s often misconstrued as “too many men rape women and that’s viewed as normal”, when it should be “there are way too many rapes and too many perpetrators, males on females, males on males, females on males and females on females escape”.

    The myth to be debunked is that women are always the victims and never the perpetrators. That’s why, when you say “The fearful voice that tells me I should keep quiet and invisible is always there with me”, I’m worried. The only way we can straighten things out is if men like you keep speaking up. How did feminists gain so much recognition if not by speaking and speaking – to the point of covering other voices?
    I know men who have been subjected to rape feel they should remain silent, but if you don’t speak up, how are we supposed to hear you? There are numerous people who would be willing to relay your voices.
    I am a woman. Plenty of us would, and do stand staunchly by you.

  3. pris3891 on May 6, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    My take on this particular article:

    Author: “Men’s Rights”—claim that men deserve justice to the bigotry portrayed (generally) against them, while using the argument on how men are “sexually assaulted by their mothers, female babysitters and teachers—such abuse is not uncommon, it’s just been taboo to talk about it” in a beginning statement into the main argument.

    Although, the quoted statement may be true in some cases, the author forgot to mention that men who are raped, are also raped by other men!
    This article is portrayed in a “blame game” type of way, particularly, towards the female population. Rather than acknowledging centuries of women’s oppression and women’s movements transnationally, this particular coalition for “men’s rights”—with a U.S. based perspective—attempt (at least it seems) to target a men’s-only population, while ignoring that patriarchy already exists and disregards the fact that “rape culture” is a human issue and not a problem of the sexes.

    This article also ignores: how the media is also a huge modifier for blaming the victim, who are majority comprised of a female population.

    Other information that may go unnoticed from reading this article: rape & other crimes are in fact prevalent among men.

    Again, rape and other forms of sexual assault/violence is a human issue. I can somewhat understand what the author is trying to argue, but positive movements geared towards a safer/less violent world will not be reached without solidarity and grounded theory.

    -Priscila E. Gallegos

    • Romel on June 22, 2013 at 6:15 PM

      I didn’t get a “blame game” type of vibe from this article. I think it was more of an article about how he came to terms to what happened to him and the experience he had when he joined a group. I don’t see any point where this article blames women at all.

      Also what does centuries of women’s oppression have to do with a man getting sexually abused by a woman? Your response seems to miss the point of this article completely as if your looking for a reason to discredit it. Instead I challenge you to change all the he and men to she and woman using MS Word and reread the article. Then post your reply. Thank you.

  4. zulu127 on April 20, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Perhaps the silence is the result of many men feeling that voicing their experience will only result in stirring up feelings of anger, disgust and hurt emmanating from their abuse…and nothing else. Many times I have remained silent for that very reason. Even when I went to seek professional help, the intake worker immediately attempted to turn the perpetrator of my abuse [my much older sister] into a victim. I stopped group work because after the first session we were asked to pay for the service which I couldn’t afford, meanwhile there were posters there offering women free counselling, free childcare [I was a single father at the time] and free transportation…male victims are often ignored or ridiculed in our society.

    • Benjamin on April 23, 2013 at 1:36 PM

      @zulu127
      Perhaps there is some way that we can start a repetitive (i.e., on-going) and repeatable (i.e., easy for anyone to plug into and contribute) process to shame and expose any and all agencies that use posters/flyers, any posted information, to disparage or discriminate against men.

      If we could, then people would start to think twice when putting things up like that, because they wouldn’t want to get burned by that process of exposure (whatever it would be, it would hopefully become well-known).

      There is already a site for “outing” bad females. But, this poster issue seems to be an on-going need. I recently moved some materials on a US Post Office bulletin board, so that people could see this. One poster read “Equal Opportunity Employment – It’s the Law”; and the other poster read “Men – Sign Up for Selective Service at Age 17”. I moved the one next to the other, for added effect.

      Likewise, more than once when I brought my wife to the hospital to bear my children, there were posters in every maternity ward room, out of site, in the bathroom (used primarily by women of course), that pictured a “battered” woman and gave information about how free “help” (violence by proxy) would be given to any woman who wanted to accuse her husband of something bad. Every man who goes into that ward, paying for everything that is done there, taking care of the woman and the other children… and those posters were there to invite brutality and destruction onto him, and to re-enforce to the helpless women who were bearing new babies, that they were actually in charge and always dominant over their men.

      Last, in my local county offices and sheriff’s department, there is a poster of a woman with boxing gloves, and a small child, saying that free (paid for by violent theft from males) legal, restraining order, and other help would be given to women to stop their “abusive” spouses. No posters were there offering free help to men. “You don’t have to fight him alone”. There were no posters of “You don’t have to fight her alone”.

      If there were a way to focus outrage/wrath on these offices that post bigoted materials anonymously like that (no particular worker there is obviously accountable for the discrimination and prejudice), then we might see a time when people were afraid to abuse power against men, because the laser-like focus would fall on them.

  5. Benjamin on April 17, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    I speak out often, many times per day, against the bigotry toward men.

    But, my response to this post was silence.

    I believe/think that it was not lack of support for the author, and other victims… but instead support.

    I would suggest, humbly, that men who heard this story in person, in a circle around a campfire or any other circle, would naturally support this man through their being with him, silently, and letting his hurt/shame dissipate for the moment, while he stayed there, un-rejected by the group/the gang.

    Men support one another by saying “you are a part, you’re in this group”, without necessarily *saying* anything. They say that by being with, staying with, accepting by silence the fellow who has suffered injury. You often honor a man whose had his arm blown off, or half his face torn off by an IED, by doing nothing… ignoring this difference, thereby allowing him to be part of the “normal” group, part of the mutual honor group, part of the band of brothers, without pointing anything out.

    This is the opposite masculine action, opposed to the “ejection” masculine reaction of — “Get the f-ck out here, you faggot. Before I f-cking beat the sh-t out of you”.

    May I humbly suggest that this natural, normal silent acceptance response by men, to an injured fellow, does not translate well, across the *Web*.

    The normal male mode for solemn, important occasions is: silence. Such as standing at attention, for example. Or, a moment of silence. In the ways of men, the important, heavy topics like this call for mutually supported silence. If you say something rude to a man, and all his friends suddenly become silent… you know that they are not exhibiting their lack of support for the man you insulted… they’re preparing to fight you, as one, with him.

    It is women who usually start cackling and babbling and wailing on solemn occasions.

    So, for whatever my opinion may be worth, I suggest that you might want to consider this as the possible explanation for the apparent “silence” among the men who usually so actively post. They may simply be showing their respect and solidarity with you.

    Some moments you don’t speak about, because it would ruin them, take away their solemnity, their importance, their sacredness.

  6. Feminist_Nullificationist on April 17, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    “I don’t know what to make of the silence.”

    It’s just the echo of all the concern over “male disposability” that you’re hearing. :-/

  7. Joe on April 16, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    The silence you are experiencing is not at all unusual. By way of one example, in the book Invisible Victims the Sociologist who wrote the book also commented on how surprised he was about the silence he wittnessed. His book was about the male victims of affirmative action. I’ve been in the men’s rights movement for 30 years and can also attest to the silence, except, as when you pointed out one gets the death stares. Our culture seems to be so convinced of the evil nature of males that few have had the courage to confront it. Maybe it is because we teach young boys to deny their feelings and man up. I don’t have a clear cut answer. But I can identify and say that the silence compounds the pain because it is so confounding (and unjust) – TW

  8. jaybird on April 16, 2013 at 7:21 PM

    I too am a sexual abuse survivor. I was also sexually abused by two women my babysitter and her adult daughter. My babysitter’s husband was their enforcer. Any time I acted up or did anything they didn’t like he would hit me. I’ve never had a girlfriend. My only relationships have been with prostitutes. I have problems with maintaining an erection and I have a strong hatred of women. I tried to go to malesurvivor only to be rebuffed by Ken,one of the social workers there. I delight in seeing women suffer. I want them to suffer and feel my pain. I’ve gone through therapy but the memories will always be there. Now I see a society that coddles women no matter what. I feel that they are blessing my tormentors and giving license for women to hurt more young boys. To top it off I read about how assholes say that boys in that situation “got lucky”. I would love to see these assholes get gangraped and tell them “they got lucky” and make light of what they went through. I hate those fucking pricks. I’ve thought about returning the favor to women so they know how I feel.

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