opinion

COLUMN: Patriarchy hurts male rape victims



Anyone can be a victim of rape. For male victims, however, there can be additional barriers to being believed and getting justice that female victims don’t face.

Jade Hatt, now 21, faced a six-month jail term for engaging in sexual intercourse with an 11-year-old boy she was babysitting in November 2014 in the United Kingdom.

But her sentence was suspended because Judge Tim Mousley felt, as he told Hatt, “it was quite clear he was a mature 11-year-old and you were an immature 20-year-old, so that narrows the arithmetic age gap between you.”

Testimony from the boy’s father that his son had enjoyed the experience and “in many ways sees it as a notch on his belt” also played a role in the judge’s decision.

Unfortunately, Mousley’s misguided viewpoint on the rape of an 11-year-old boy is far too commonplace.

This view is symptomatic of a society that sees sexual conquest as appropriate and desirable male behavior and interprets female-on-male rape through that framework.

While women and girls who are raped are often victim-blamed and thought to have wanted or caused the sexual violence perpetrated against them, men and boys are sometimes not viewed as victims at all but rather as 
sexual heroes.

The opposite of the archetype of the sexually passive female waiting to be conquered is the sexually aggressive, uncontrollably sex-crazed male looking to score with any and every woman possible.

This is the misguided notion of masculinity behind the 11-year-old rape victim’s father’s assertion that his son was “sex mad” and the boy enjoyed the illegal sexual encounter. According to the Guardian, prosecutor Hannah Squire said the boy said, “it was wrong.”

The father of the rape victim claims his son was “totally unaffected by” the experience.

But according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, “men who have early sexual experiences with adults report problems in various areas at a much higher rate than those who do not.”

Some of these problems include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and engaging in risk-taking behavior.

Another difficulty facing sexually abused men is the unwillingness of our society to accept that men can be the victims of sexual assault and rape. But according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one in six men is sexually abused before reaching adulthood.

Let’s be clear: what happened to this child was rape.

Had this been a case of a 20-year-old man raping an 11-year-old girl, how many of us would suggest that the encounter was simply a notch in the girl’s belt?

The patriarchal division of men and women into clearly delineated but artificial categories of sexual aggressor and sexual submissive does not admit the possibility of a female sexual assailant or sexual predator.

Instead, men and boys who are sexually assaulted or raped by women are encouraged to view the assault as their own sexual conquest of their assailant, rather than being allowed to see themselves as victims of sexual crimes.

When rape happens to a boy or a man, particularly by a female assailant, we need to recognize it for what it is: a 
serious, damaging crime.

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