Why Are Men Surprised About Rape?
How could it be that a smart, worldly journalist knew so little about sexual assault?
When Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post reviewed Jon Krakauer’s new book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, she wondered why men are so often surprised by the trauma of rape, and the difficulties victims face gaining justice.
Why, she wondered, did it take a personal experience of a young friend he was close to for him to “get it”?
She wishes Mr. Krakauer had told his own story:
The individual story of a man who knew little about rape might help us understand the indifference and even contempt that have made comprehensive reform so difficult.
[Warning: this post could be triggering to some rape victims.]
Men who DO get it
But a lot of men DO get it. There are organizations like, “Men Against Violence Against Women.” Several male celebrities advocate on this issue: Patrick Stewart, Daniel Craig, David Schwimmer, Ian Somerhalder, and Louis CK, to name a few.
And more than one of my men students have written papers on the topic. Like this: Real Men Don’t Beat, Rape Women.
Still, others don’t get it.
Men who don’t get it
Once, when I was talking about rape victims experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, a male student doubted that sexual assault could have that effect.
Every now and then a young man wonders aloud how a husband could possibly rape his wife? Worse, one guy came up after class to say that he thought the lecture was funny — how could a man sexually assault his wife?
Thankfully, these guys are the exception.
Or, some have been clueless enough to write insensitive comments on my blog (again, the exception). This guy was “explaining” why some men were “going their own way” without women:
The reduction, or the end of what feminists call rape culture, is an added bonus to men getting involved in the sexodus you may have heard of… I mean you can’t have a rape culture without sex.
I am grateful that guys like him are going their own way, without women. (He never has sex with real women — just porn, he says.)
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Jon Krakauer expressed concern that some guys think that sexual assault is mere sport, a game, a conquest: Get a woman drunk, have sex with her, and then brag that you scored.
Women who don’t get it
But it’s not just men. Every now and then a woman tries to explain to me that some girls are just “asking for it” by the way they dress. Or that, mostly, girls just cry rape. Again, these women are the exception! Most DO get it.
Women may buy into myths about rape because it makes them feel safer: If I dress modestly and don’t drink too much and avoid walking around in the dark, I won’t get hurt.
A lack of understanding and empathy
All of this belies a lack of understanding and empathy.
In his Charlie Rose interview, Mr. Krakauer tried to explain that being penetrated in one’s most private parts is a particularly damaging trauma.
One woman he wrote about felt she had been turned into a ghost for at least a decade after being attacked.
Another said that being raped by a man she had once considered her best friend had destroyed her trust in everything.
Natasha was 14 years old when a man grabbed her, beat her, stripped her, raped her and then plunged her into a creek to drown. She survived by playing dead. 25 years later she is still unmarried because she distrusts men. And water terrifies her. (Meanwhile, the police only recently bothered to test her rape kit — leaving other women to be attacked and traumatized. All part of a rape culture that minimizes the agony of sexual assault.)
Nick Kristof told her story in his New York Times column. As she cried softy she told him, “It affects me to this day. It’s hard. It’s very hard.”
Post-traumatic stress rates are higher among rape victims than among soldiers returning from combat in Iraq.
Some victims become suicidal.
I can only hope that those who take these assaults lightly will one day understand the deep damage that the attacks inflict.
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Posted on May 15, 2015, in feminism, men, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged feminism, Jon Krakauer, men, Missoula, Patrick Stewart, rape, sexism, sexual assault, violence against women, women. Bookmark the permalink. 63 Comments.