The flesh is weak: On the Erection Equals Consent rape myth


Rape myths take many forms, and male victims have their own myths to bust.

CONTENT NOTE: THIS POST CONTAINS BRIEF BUT GRAPHIC DETAILS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

Whenever an article appears about the sexual abuse of men and boys – especially abuse perpetrated by women – you can almost guarantee that a comment will appear saying something like: ‘well he couldn’t have been that unwilling if he got a boner.’

It is an incredibly damaging and harmful myth, for at least five reasons which I shall detail later in this post, but first let me do my best to convince doubters that it really is a myth.

As described by M. Zuckerman in 1971  and many times since, medical science knows that the body can respond to a variety of situations as if they were sexual stimuli. In men, this most obviously means getting an erection. Most men, of almost any age, will recognise the phenomenon of the unwanted erection, but it is especially common in adolescents and young men who are, incidentally, at the age when they are most likely to be victims of sexual assault. An erection can be triggered by physical vibration (the notorious rattling bus syndrome) or by the most innocuous stimulus, such as a medical examination.

Contrary to popular belief, many men can get an erection when they are too drunk to speak or to remember what they have done the next day. A man in a drunken stupor can sometimes be stimulated to erection without even waking up. An erection is quite a common response to an adrenalin rush as caused by excitement, anxiety or sheer terror. Soldiers talk of the phenomenon of a ‘combat boner.’

Perhaps more pernicious is the belief that even if a man did not want to have sex before he got an erection, he certainly will once it is in place. This is patently untrue. Men are sentient beings who (mostly) have conscience and self-restraint and make decisions about who they want to have sex with all the time, independently of their erectile engorgement (more on this one later.)

The academic literature describes how all of the above can play out in abusive situations. A study of 22 male-on-male rape victims by Nicholas Groth and Ann Burgess (1980)found that half of the victims maintained an erection throughout their assaults. The original, ground-breaking paper on adult male victims of female molesters by Sarrel and Masters (1982) described some of the assaults perpetrated on their subjects, described here:

In one case, a man was raped by two women at gunpoint. He was able to maintain an erection throughout severe physical abuse until he finally passed out. In another case, a seventeen-year-old boy was attacked by two men and two women and was able to maintain an erection and ejaculate three times before he was unable to perform further. Another man was drugged and awoke naked, tied down, gagged, and blindfolded. Approximately four women repeatedly raped him until it was difficult for him to maintain an erection. Threatened with castration, he was able to maintain an erection after rest periods until eventually he passed out and was left abandoned on a roadside.

I hope this just about covers every angle on explaining why an erection does not equal consent. The persistence of this pernicious myth, however, is perhaps the most harmful of all rape myths to male victims of sexual assault. Here are five reasons why.

1. It allows rapists and abusers to escape justice

In the Groth and Burgess paper mentioned above, the authors noted that many victims who maintain an erection during an assault are subsequently discouraged from reporting their assault as such evidence could be used to impeach their credibility at trial. That was back in 1980, but in the UK in 1999 Professor Sue Lees took evidence from a heterosexual man who had been raped in prison. “He reported it immediately, despite the fact that he was terrified,” she said at the time. “But because the man had got an erection during the attack, the judge stopped the case even going to jury – revealing how he saw rape as a sexual encounter rather than a form of violent humiliation.”

The judge in that case was following well established precedents in English Law. In Willan v. Willan, 1960, the English Court of Appeals held that a man who sustains an erection during intercourse must be deemed as committing a voluntary act. The wife in this case would frequently demand sex and would violently abuse her husband if he refused –  pulling his hair, grabbing his ears, shaking his head violently or kicking his injured leg. The court ruled that by maintaining an erection, the husband had legally condoned the actions against him. The judge ruled “It might be otherwise in the case of a wife, but in the case of a husband who has sexual intercourse it can only be said of him that what he does he does on purpose, and that sexual intercourse with his wife must be a voluntary act on his part.”

One would like to think that courts and judges have modernised their attitudes slightly in recent years, but considering everything we know about English justice, particularly in sexual cases, that would probably be a wildly optimistic assumption.

2. It leaves victims feeling guilty or confused

Victims are not immune to the erection=consent myth, and for many it leaves them unable to resolve lingering post-traumatic attitudes that may include shame, humiliation, guilt and confusion. When I wrote about female abusers in the Guardian lately, I had the (too rare) experience of receiving comments that were not only complimentary, but which made me feel like writing about these kinds of topics really is worth the grief. A longstanding regular commenter on Comment is Free left me the following messages which, I think, make this point better than I could. Although he was using his pseudonymous moniker and the comments are still public record, he did not agree to this usage, so I’ve blanked out his nickname.

[Click to enlarge]

erec_consent_comment

3. It prevents victims from receiving support, help or justice

Many male victims of assault believe their erection and/or orgasm makes them an equal participant in their own abuse. They are therefore much less likely to report the assault to authorities or to seek professional help with emotional and psychological trauma arising. Worse, as Michael Scarce noted, “Others, including medical personnel, family, friends, and other support people, may be reluctant to believe a man who admits rape when he shares that he had an erection or ejaculated.”


4. It allows abusers to convince themselves they are doing nothing wrong.

Groth and Masters reported that male-on-male rapists commonly made efforts to stimulate their victims to ejaculate. They suggested two reasons for this. One was because it makes it lesss likely that the victims will report the crime (see above.) The other was to convince themselves that what they were doing was not rape.

As I’ve written before, when asked by researchers, an startlingly high proportion of women will admit to having forced a man to perform a sexual act against his will by means of coercion, threat or outright force. How many of these women do we think consider themselves to be sexual aggressors, sexual offenders or even rapists? I’d hazard a guess that the answer to that is very close to zero.

Women in our culture are raised with the false and damaging belief that pretty much all men are up for sex with anyone at any time, and that if he has or can get an erection he is therefore fair game. What’s the harm in giving him what he wants?
In truth (and this bears repeating) a significant proportion of men who have experienced forced or coercive sexual encounters describe negative consequences, of various degrees of severity. Struckman-Johnson and Struckman-Johnson (1994) found that most men who experienced unwanted female contact had ‘mild negative reactions’ however about one fifth of the men had strong negative reactions up to and including full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder, relationship and attachment difficulties or sexual dysfunction.

Do the women committing these deeds realise what they are doing? How harmful their actions might be? I very much doubt it. Why? Because they believe that if the flesh is willing, so must be the spirit.

I don’t really blame women for thinking this, because who has ever told them otherwise? It is worth remembering this next time we are told that boys need to be better taught about sexual consent. They certainly do, but they are not the only ones.


5. It perpetuates the myth that a man’s brain and/or conscience is located in his dick

As I’ve noted many times before on this blog, whenever there are social attitudes that cause real, poisonous harm to vulnerable men and boys, you can almost guarantee you can trace it back to hegemonic patriarchy somewhere down the line. This is a doozy of an example.
You know all those jokes that say things like when a man gets an erection, all the blood drains out of his brain? All of that is (to drop down a few inches) a sack of steaming bollocks. Yes, of course human beings of any gender do silly, stupid and self-destructive things while in the throes of lust, just as we do when driven by love, anger, excitement, jealousy or any other strong emotion. However the old saw that men think with their dicks is a cynical lie, waved as a pathetic get-out-of-jail-free card by those who want to dodge responsibility for their sexual choices while playing to all kinds of sexual and gender double standards and hypocrisy.

So the erection=consent myth disempowers and damages victimised and vulnerable men, and at the same time it empowers and validates their abusers and attackers, both male and female. That makes it a uniquely malignant myth, and at least as far as men are concerned, perhaps the most damaging rape myth of all.

Credit and thanks: This post leans heavily on the excellent paper Male Sexual Assault: Issues of Arousal and Consent, Siegmund Fred Fuchs, Cleveland State Law Review 93 (2004)  

Comments

  1. Paul says

    Thanks for an interesting post Ally.Made me think of those believe that men who rape other men must be gay because if they weren’t they wouldn’t be able to get an erection. When what actually can stimulate the rapist into getting an erection is the power to abuse,dominate,punish and degrade the victim rather than any form of sexual attraction.

    Gay men obviously can and do rape other men but if memory serves me correctly about 50% of those convicted of male-on-male rape victims in this country are straight.And in American mens prisons most of the rapes are carried by men who identify as being straight -with men who’re either openly gay or perceived to be gay especially at risk of being targetted..Plus the American military are now only just facing up to the fact that male-as well as female-soldiers are being raped mainly by male military personnel who again overwhelmingly identify as being straight.

    ps to my knowledge no comparative research has been conducted as to the incidence of rape in either UK prisons or the UK military.

  2. Marduk says

    Paul

    Sadly there are even cases where straight men are forced to rape (which somehow doesn’t seem to be the right word because both people involved are being abused) other straight men at gunpoint or with their children and wives threatened.

    Its a weapon of war in some parts of the world.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    50% of those convicted of male-on-male rape victims in this country are straight

    in American mens prisons most of the rapes are carried by men who identify as being straight

    There was an “almost politically correct redneck” gag where the APCR said “I don’t get all these people opposing gay marriage. Obsessing about what another man does with his dick is the third gayest thing you can do.”

    Actually by choice sticking your dick into another man with a view to ejaculating is the MOST gay thing you can do, isn’t it? Any man who does it, by force or otherwise, and then pretends he’s straight is surely only fooling himself, isn’t he? Maybe I’m being hopelessly naive or unempathetic, but I cannot imagine any situation where I was trying to assert dominance in a physical confrontation where it would ever even occur to me to get my dick out. One thing these figures do show is that there are a LOT more closeted and self-deluding gays around than we might imagine. (The experience of a gay friend of mine, who regularly *ahem* “entertains visitors” who identify as straight would seem to back this up, buy hey, that’s anecdote, not data.)

  4. Marduk says

    sonofrojblake

    You’re hopelessly nieve and lacking in empathy (I say that in the nicest way, but you called it).

  5. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    sonofrojblake @ 6

    Actually by choice sticking your dick into another man with a view to ejaculating is the MOST gay thing you can do, isn’t it?

    Only if you assume rape is about sexual gratification. Spoiler: it isn’t.

    Any man who does it, by force or otherwise, and then pretends he’s straight is surely only fooling himself, isn’t he?

    I defy you to elaborate on why you think this without reference to your being personally squicked by the thought of it and/or blatantly homophobic language.

    Maybe I’m being hopelessly naive or unempathetic, but I cannot imagine any situation where I was trying to assert dominance in a physical confrontation where it would ever even occur to me to get my dick out.

    Congrats, I guess? I suppose that means you’re not very likely to rape anyone.

    One thing these figures do show is that there are a LOT more closeted and self-deluding gays around than we might imagine.

    Uh, no. No they don’t. Again, you’re naively assuming that rape is about sexual gratification and that a man raping another man entails homosexuality.

    (The experience of a gay friend of mine, who regularly *ahem* “entertains visitors” who identify as straight would seem to back this up, buy hey, that’s anecdote, not data.).

    That’s evidence of cultural stigma against being openly gay and really has nothing to do with rape at all.

  6. Koken says

    I’ve seen plenty of people assert that rape has nothing to do with sexual gratification, but never with any evidence or argumentation I found particularly convincing. Even on the alternative hypothesis, however:

    There is plenty of evidence of people in prison, without access to partners of the other sex, engaging in consensual homosexual activity that they never repeat once released. Simplistically, sex with someone you don’t find attractive may often be better than no sex at all.

    @Seven of Mine #8
    Why should squick not play a part in an explanation?

  7. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Koken @ 9

    I’ve seen plenty of people assert that rape has nothing to do with sexual gratification, but never with any evidence or argumentation I found particularly convincing.

    I should have been clearer. It doesn’t have nothing to do with sexual gratification but you have to be pretty out of touch with reality not to be aware of the ways it can be used to dominate. A quick glance at the threats of rape and sexual violence that women get for speaking up about sexism should be enough to convince anyone that at least some rape is motivated by a desire to control and silence. In those cases rape is clearly the threatened punishment for those women failing to know their place and stay in it. It’s also not difficult to imagine that rape could be used in a prison environment to assert dominance. If you’re the rapist, you’re not being raped, after all.

    At any rate, sonofrojblake is still assuming sexual gratification as the only possible motivator for rape.

    Why should squick not play a part in an explanation?

    Because it would only speak to sonofrojblake’s motivation (or lack thereof) and not the actual claim he made. To wit: “Any man who does it, by force or otherwise, and then pretends he’s straight is surely only fooling himself, isn’t he?”

  8. sonofrojblake says

    sonofrojblake is still assuming sexual gratification as the only possible motivator for rape

    Absolutely false. Where did I say “only”? Perfectly well aware that there’s far more to it than that. BUT…

    It doesn’t have nothing to do with sexual gratification but you have to be pretty out of touch with reality not to be aware of the ways it can be used to dominate.

    My emphasis. If a straight man wants to assert dominance in a physical confrontation with another man, there are more ways to do it than you can count. You can use your voice, your fists, your open hand, your elbows, feet, knees or head. You could use a weapon. You could use threats or psychological intimidation. The list is, literally, almost endless.

    And then of course it might also occur to you that, as well as all these myriad techniques, you could also get your dick out and stick it somewhere. And if you think that, if that even appears on your list of possible options, then dude, you are gay (at least a bit). Deal with it.

    I am emphatically NOT “squicked” by homosexual activity, or its use as a tool of violence. Nor can I imagine why you’d try to imply that I am, other than as a form of veiled ad hominem. Conversely, since I am comfortably hetero, such activity would simply never occur to me as a method of violence under any circumstances. I mean, why would it?

  9. sonofrojblake says

    ===Any man who does it, by horse or otherwise, and then pretends he’s straight is surely only fooling himself, isn’t he?
    ==I defy you to elaborate on why you think this without reference to your being personally squicked by the thought of it and/or blatantly homophobic language

    I think I did that in post 13.

  10. sonofrojblake says

    That’s evidence of cultural stigma against being openly gay and really has nothing to do with rape at all

    The fact that men who choose to assert their dominance by using their penis on another man paradoxically for some reason don’t identify as gay isn’t anything to do with cultural stigma? Are you sure?

  11. Ally Fogg says

    @sonofrojblake

    And then of course it might also occur to you that, as well as all these myriad techniques, you could also get your dick out and stick it somewhere. And if you think that, if that even appears on your list of possible options, then dude, you are gay (at least a bit). Deal with it.

    I think you are using a definition of gay that is very reductive and entirely genitally-based. I don’t think that’s how most people understand the word.

    For most people, a sexual orientation is much, much more than that. It is about who you find attractive, sexy. beautiful, whose company makes you swoon, whose smell you enjoy etc etc etc.

    A lot of people with violent or sadistic tendencies get a sexual thrill from cruelty and brutality. So I can agree with you when you say that an act of rape is in part a sexual act, but it is not rooted in sexual orientation. The sexual thrill comes from degrading, hurting and humiliating another person, which is miles removed from consensual sex.

    It is also a really obvious point that the identity ‘gay’ is a social construction which does not 100% map onto ‘men who have sex with men.’ As others have said there are many men who have occasional or regular sexual encounters with other men who say they are not gay, and who are the rest of us to disagree?

    Let’s be honest, there are some men that will fuck a couple of cushions when they are horny enough. It doesn’t mean that they have a sexual orientation called cushiosexual or that they actually fancy cushions or find them attractive. It is just a vessel to an end. I don’t see what is so unlikely about some people using other human beings in the exact same way.

  12. Koken says

    Perhaps I’m wrong then, but I tend to think of some degree of ‘squick’ concerning sexual interactions with your own sex as pretty much part and parcel of common heterosexuality. I certainly know that I feel it. To be clear, what I mean is an instinctive discomfort with the act itself, not a moral judgement on those who do it – though I think people making that jump offers a fairly straightforward explanation for a certain amount of homophobia.

  13. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    sonofrojblake @ 13

    Where did I say “only”?

    You didn’t use the word “only” but you did assert that any man who would penetrate another man is necessarily gay. You must be gay if you’re willing to put your penis in another man. If you’re willing to countenance motives other than sexual gratification, it simply doesn’t follow that male on male rape necessitates homosexuality.

    And if you think that, if that even appears on your list of possible options, then dude, you are gay (at least a bit). Deal with it.

    First, you’ve shifted the goal posts. Your original claim was that any man who would penetrate another man for any reason is necessarily gay. Second, I asked you to explain why you think this is true, not to simply assert it again which is what you did in #13. The fact that there are other ways to assert dominance than raping someone, doesn’t mean a straight man can’t make a decision that rape is the optimal way to go about it in a particular situation.

    I am emphatically NOT “squicked” by homosexual activity, or its use as a tool of violence. Nor can I imagine why you’d try to imply that I am, other than as a form of veiled ad hominem. Conversely, since I am comfortably hetero, such activity would simply never occur to me as a method of violence under any circumstances. I mean, why would it?

    If you’re not squicked by it, you’re not. So cross “ick” off the list. You’re still simply asserting that hetero = would never rape a man. You’re making an argument from personal incredulity. My suspicion is that, if you try to explain (rather than assert) this position, you’ll find yourself unable to do it at least not without sounding extremely homophobic and/or ignorant. So far your efforts to explain have involved one non sequitur and re-asserting it several times with different words.

    The fact that men who choose to assert their dominance by using their penis on another man paradoxically for some reason don’t identify as gay isn’t anything to do with cultural stigma?

    I was talking about your closeted gay friend trying to maintain an image of being straight. It’s completely irrelevant to this discussion.

  14. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Perhaps I’m wrong then, but I tend to think of some degree of ‘squick’ concerning sexual interactions with your own sex as pretty much part and parcel of common heterosexuality.

    Even if that’s true, that doesn’t mean someone can’t perform a cost/benefit analysis and decide it’s worthwhile to endure something they find distasteful in the interest of achieving some other goal.

  15. Anton Mates says

    sonofrojblake,

    My emphasis. If a straight man wants to assert dominance in a physical confrontation with another man, there are more ways to do it than you can count. You can use your voice, your fists, your open hand, your elbows, feet, knees or head. You could use a weapon. You could use threats or psychological intimidation. The list is, literally, almost endless.

    Sure, but will those work as well as rape? All indications are that men find being raped extremely upsetting and humiliating, far more than an equally injurious act of non-sexual violence. Being raped may also make men a target of mockery and ostracism, in a way they wouldn’t be if they simply lost a fight. And for these reasons, men are less likely to report rape than other types of assault. So if you want a quick way to assert dominance, inflict lasting fear and shame, knock your rival down the social ladder and avoid official punishment, rape may be the easiest way to do it.

    And that’s leaving aside the fact that you might be turned on by power and control in itself, as others mentioned, without being particularly turned on by anything about your victim.

    Koken,

    Perhaps I’m wrong then, but I tend to think of some degree of ‘squick’ concerning sexual interactions with your own sex as pretty much part and parcel of common heterosexuality.

    Common heterosexuality in conservative Christian-descended cultures, at least. I don’t think it’s particularly universal, though; the Greeks and Romans were macho as hell and still weren’t squicked out by male-male sex (although only certain forms of it were socially acceptable). And I know a lot of liberal guys who, like me, are straight but not grossed out by the thought of gay sex. We just don’t particularly want to do it.

    In any case, if we’re talking about violent rape, in prison or otherwise, the perpetrator’s obviously already comfortable doing a a lot of stuff that would squick you or me out. And arguably, one of the ways a male sex offender in a homophobic culture avoids being embarrassed or disgusted by the thought of interacting sexually with another man, is by treating it as a form of violence. He’s not making love to another guy, he’s fucking some poor bastard up.

  16. sonofrojblake says

    there are many men who have occasional or regular sexual encounters with other men who say they are not gay, and who are the rest of us to disagree?

    I guess it’s a matter of the definition of the word. For me (and I think for most people), the word “gay” maps pretty closely onto “men who have sex with men”. It’s only among those hyper-aware of precision identity politics who recognise the gaps around the edges.

    I tend to think of some degree of ‘squick’ concerning sexual interactions with your own sex as pretty much part and parcel of common heterosexuality

    Anecdote =/= data, but not here. It’s just not something that I think about.

    you did assert that any man who would penetrate another man is necessarily gay

    Yes, I did, and see above note about definition. But you rebutted that by saying “rape isn’t about sex”, which is (a) false, because rape is *partly* about sex, by definition and (b) nothing to do with what I actually said. And you accused me of non-sequiturs?

    My explanation, then would be that the commonly-understood definition of the word “gay” maps very very closely onto “men who have sex with men”, to the point that if you have sex with men, then hey, you’re gay. I don’t think this is a particularly controversial or difficult idea.

    I was talking about your closeted gay friend trying to maintain an image of being straight

    Ah, I see the problem here now. You don’t read English so good, huh? (Note: the incorrect grammer in the preceding sentence is something English speakers call “sarcasm”.)

    I’ll break this down for you quite slowly, starting with what I actually said:
    “a gay friend of mine, who regularly *ahem* “entertains visitors” who identify as straight”

    That’s a gay friend of mine. A man I know to be gay. A man who has regaled me with stories of his encounters with other men. Men who identify as straight.

    See, if I’d meant MY FRIEND identified as straight, here’s how that sentence would have looked:

    “”a gay friend of mine, who regularly *ahem* “entertains visitors”, who identifies as straight””

    Now, I’ll admit, to someone with poor English skills the syntactic difference between those two sentences is quite subtle. However, importantly, the second one makes NO SENSE. It requires you to believe I have a friend who identifies as straight but who nevertheless tells me all about the men he fucks. Didn’t this incongruity leap out at you? Didn’t it make you question your interpretation of that sentence?

    I’m not really confident that any answer you give will be based on any understanding of what I’ve actually said, so for that reason…. I’m out.

  17. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    I guess it’s a matter of the definition of the word. For me (and I think for most people), the word “gay” maps pretty closely onto “men who have sex with men”.

    This is almost comical. Most of the people in this thread are working off a different definition of “gay” than that so I don’t know what basis you think you have to claim that most people in general would define it as “men who have sex with men.”

    It’s only among those hyper-aware of precision identity politics who recognise the gaps around the edges.

    Followed by an argument from ignorance. “I’m unaware of the finer details of this subject therefor I’m just going to reckon completely without them.”

    Yes, I did, and see above note about definition. But you rebutted that by saying “rape isn’t about sex”, which is (a) false, because rape is *partly* about sex, by definition and (b) nothing to do with what I actually said. And you accused me of non-sequiturs?

    Not so good at the thinkings are we? If rape is by definition at least partly about sex because it involves one person sticking their dangly bits into another, then you were, in fact, talking about rape when you said:

    Actually by choice sticking your dick into another man with a view to ejaculating is the MOST gay thing you can do, isn’t it? Any man who does it, by force or otherwise, and then pretends he’s straight is surely only fooling himself, isn’t he?

    I mean, you even use the phrase “by force.” Do you think people can’t just scroll up?

    My explanation, then would be that the commonly-understood definition of the word “gay” maps very very closely onto “men who have sex with men”, to the point that if you have sex with men, then hey, you’re gay. I don’t think this is a particularly controversial or difficult idea.

    So any man who has sex with men is gay because men who have sex with men are gay because you’ve just arbitrarily decided the “gaps around the edges” don’t count presumably because that would break your tautology. Right then.

  18. Jacob Schmidt says

    For me (and I think for most people), the word “gay” maps pretty closely onto “men who have sex with men”.

    That sort of definition is idiotic: by the same token, I am “brunette-sexual” (not to mention “5-feet-7-inches-sexual,” and “size-8-women’s-canadian-shoes-sexual”) due to the hair colour of my partner. Except I feel no sexual attraction to my partners hair colour, and defining sexuality by partner-traits irrelevant to actual sexual attraction is, at best, silly.

    Men can get off by dominating and humiliating others, men included. That doesn’t mean they’re attracted to men qua men. You can argue all you want that “gay” means “mano et mano sex” but at that point you’re describing acts, not necessarily preferences held by any involved party.

  19. Anton Mates says

    sonofrojblake,

    For me (and I think for most people), the word “gay” maps pretty closely onto “men who have sex with men”.

    Given the prevalence of homoerotic hazing in fraternities, sports teams, military organizations, and almost anywhere else men gather to do sweaty man things, I’m pretty confident that you’re wrong here. Even homophobes and social conservatives often recognize that straight men can engage in sexual acts with other men, provided it’s about power or control or group bonding or something like that, and not because other men turn them on.

    It might be helpful to recognize that the point we’re making is not just confined to men who rape men. The majority of child molesters, AFAIK, are not pedophiles. Most people who sexually abuse the elderly in assisted living homes are not particularly hot for incontinent 80-year-olds. Homeless women are not targeted because everyone thinks they’re sexy. Heavy girls get assaulted by guys who think heavy girls are gross.

    Predators get off on being predators. If their victims are innately desirable that’s a bonus, but often it’s not necessary. As long as they’re accessible and vulnerable, they’ll do.

    Heck, this is true for a lot of non-predators. Most people aren’t terribly attracted to vibrators, fleshlights and their own hands, but they still hump them. Whatever works.

    (Note: the incorrect grammer in the preceding sentence is something English speakers call “sarcasm”.)

    And the incorrect spelling of “grammar” is something we call “unintentional irony”.

  20. says

    Thank you for this – it outlines the discussion so susinctly, & clarifies a lot of things I’d wondered about, but hadn’t had a chance to research. Bookmarking for future reference!

  21. Lucy says

    “Men are sentient beings who (mostly) have conscience and self-restraint and make decisions about who they want to have sex with all the time.”

    “Women in our culture are raised with the false and damaging belief that pretty much all men are up for sex with anyone at any time,”

    Raised by who? It’s men who constantly whine that women can get sex anytime they like and just have to be female and men will want to sleep with them while men have to work for it. I’ve had that comment from men twice this week alone.

  22. sonofrojblake says

    the incorrect spelling of “grammar” is something we call “unintentional irony”.

    No, that’s something I call “wasted on you”.

    Most of the people in this thread are working off a different definition of “gay” than that

    I contend that the readership and particularly the commentariat of a blog entitled “heteronormative patriarchy for men” are, in their understanding of identity politics, very very far from representative of “most people”. Dispute that, if you can.

    you even use the phrase “by force.”

    Yes. And then followed it immediately by the words “or otherwise”, or did you miss that? And the distinction is in any case irrelevant.

    you’ve just arbitrarily decided the “gaps around the edges” don’t count

    I’ve not arbitrarily decided that. I’ve observed that in normal usage (i.e. non-identity-politics-warrior discourse) “gay” generally means “men who have sex with men”, just as “lesbian” means “woman who has sex with women” and “duck” means “thing with feathers and a bill that quacks”. Yes, there are exceptions but you cannot possibly seriously contend that those exceptions are part of average discourse outside of blogs like this one.

    That sort of definition is idiotic

    Take it up with a dictionary. I didn’t invent the definition. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/gay

    @Anton Mates: I’m aware of homoerotic hazing etc. And as I’ve already pointed out, I believe that (along with the anecdotal evidence of my friend’s experiences) all this proves is that actually, a lot more men are gay than admit it, even to themselves. That whole “provided it’s about power” is an excuse.

  23. Holms says

    #21
    Ah, I see the problem here now. You don’t read English so good, huh? (Note: the incorrect grammer in the preceding sentence is something English speakers call “sarcasm”.)

    I enjoyed the way your attempt at being a pompous arse was undone in the first line. Also, it should have been evident that Seven of Mine’s comment “That’s evidence of cultural stigma against being openly gay and really has nothing to do with rape at all.” in #8 was in reply to your comment “(The experience of a gay friend of mine, who regularly *ahem* “entertains visitors” who identify as straight would seem to back this up, buy hey, that’s anecdote, not data.).” by virtue of the fact that your text was quoted immediately before Seven’s reply.

    Anyway, the being made was that the callers to your gay friend were probably only claiming to be straight because of the stress associated with coming out… and that that has nothing to do with the discussion of the role of dominance in rape.

    #26
    Raised by who? It’s men who constantly whine that women can get sex anytime they like and just have to be female and men will want to sleep with them while men have to work for it.

    Yes, and it is often the same men that buy into the idea that men think with their penises.

    #27
    Take it up with a dictionary. I didn’t invent the definition.

    Do you know how dictionaries work? They are descriptive rather than prescriptive, meaning they do not set rules for how words must be used.

  24. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucy 26
    “Raised by who?” is a red herring, no matter what you use it for. It is true that men and women to some extent form different cultures (Ref: Deborah Tannen, as usual). And you can argue (if you really want) that they ought to be totally separate cultures. But current reality is that our culture, male and female version both, is maintained and transmitted to both sexes by both sexes. Blaming one side only does not make sense.

  25. StillGjenganger says

    @sonofrojblake
    You are losing this argument.
    ‘Gay’ (male) means a man who both is turned on (mainly) by men, and has sex (mainly) with men. The two normally go together, so there is no conflict in practice. When we get to the specific cases where the two do not go together, you cannot arbitrarily say that only one of the criteria matter. And if it comes down to it, the desire is a better criterion than the action. You can still be gay even if you die a virgin.

    For illustration, ‘mother’ means both somebody who gives birth to a child and somebody who cares for it and brings it up. For a baby that is adopted at birth, ‘the mother’ could mean either the ‘birth’ mother or the ‘family’ mother depending on context. It does not make sense to say that one of them is the real mother and the other does not qualify.

  26. John Allman says

    Lucy, please reconsider your comment in the light of the distinction between “all man” and “some men”.

  27. johngreg says

    sonofrojblake, you are completely dancing on thin ice, and really do not have a leg left to stand on. You fail to understand the difference between act and orientation, and the critical difference in what that means. In other words, you are simply, and uneqivocally wrong — whether you understand or acknowledge that or not, or think it true or false, is irrelevant.

    From the Free Dictionary:

    Gay

    gay (g)
    adj. gay·er, gay·est
    1. Of, relating to, or having a sexual orientation to persons of the same sex.
    2. Showing or characterized by cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement; merry.
    3. Bright or lively, especially in color: a gay, sunny room.
    4. Given to social pleasures.
    5. Dissolute; licentious.
    n.
    1. A person whose sexual orientation is to persons of the same sex.
    2. A man whose sexual orientation is to men: an alliance of gays and lesbians.

    Usage Note: The word gay is now standard in its use to refer to people whose orientation is to the same sex, in large part because it is the term that most gay people prefer in referring to themselves. Gay is distinguished from homosexual primarily by the emphasis it places on the cultural and social aspects of homosexuality as opposed to sexual practice. Many writers reserve gay for males, but the word is also used to refer to both sexes; when the intended meaning is not clear in the context, the phrase gay and lesbian may be used. Gay is often considered objectionable when used as a noun to refer to particular individuals, as in There were two gays on the panel; here phrasing such as Two members of the panel were gay should be used instead. But there is no objection to the use of the noun in the plural to refer collectively either to gay men or to gay men and lesbians, so long as it is clear whether men alone or both men and women are being discussed. See Usage Note at homosexual.

    Homosexual

    ho·mo·sex·u·al (hm-sksh-l, -m-)
    adj.
    Of, relating to, or having a sexual orientation to persons of the same sex.
    n
    1. (Psychology) a person who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex
    adj
    2. (Psychology) of or relating to homosexuals or homosexuality
    3. (Biology) of or relating to the same sex

    So, young pup, to use your own words, dispute that, if you can.

  28. Marduk says

    “Men are sentient beings who (mostly) have conscience and self-restraint and make decisions about who they want to have sex with all the time.”
    “Women in our culture are raised with the false and damaging belief that pretty much all men are up for sex with anyone at any time,”
    Raised by who? It’s men who constantly whine that women can get sex anytime they like and just have to be female and men will want to sleep with them while men have to work for it. I’ve had that comment from men twice this week alone.

    I’m not seeing the connections there. Perhaps you need to learn what consent is, apparently you are unfamiliar with the importance of the concept. Don’t rape people please, just because they might want to have sex with someone at some moment doesn’t mean they want to have sex with you.

  29. Darren Ball says

    Interesting article Ally,

    Although I accept that men can be sexually assaulted by women, and that could include being forced to penetrate without their consent, which could be traumatic, I find it very difficult to relate to much of this as a man.

    Firstly, if I were forced to penetrate a women the extent to which I would feel abused would be hugely affected by the women in question and whether or not I found her physically attractive. I do not believe this would be a consideration for any woman who’d been raped (i,e. yes he raped me but he was cute so it’s not too bad. No woman would ever feel like this). If I’m at all representative of men in general, this begs the question: do men who are forced to penetrate suffer an entirely different sort of abuse to that suffered by women who are raped?

    Second, although a man can have an erection for a variety of reasons or no obvious reason at all, nobody could count on this happening at any given time. This means that women hoping to fuck a bloke against his will are likely to be disappointed and therefore unlikely to make this their MO – they’d have to be taking advantage of a very unlikely chance occurrence.

    Nevertheless, a very interesting piece and something to be aware of.

  30. Jacob Schmidt says

    Take it up with a dictionary.

    Why would I take anything up with a document that does not contradict me?

    I’m aware of homoerotic hazing etc. And as I’ve already pointed out, I believe that (along with the anecdotal evidence of my friend’s experiences) all this proves is that actually, a lot more men are gay than admit it, even to themselves. That whole “provided it’s about power” is an excuse.

    You’re inventing effectively unobservable mindsets to fit an observation into your preferred idea. That’s not reasonable. That’s not rational.

    But current reality is that our culture, male and female version both, is maintained and transmitted to both sexes by both sexes. Blaming one side only does not make sense.

    Perhaps not “only,” but I am willing to place most (or at least more) of the blame for this cultural trope on the men who repeat it: if nothing else, their opinion bears more weight (as they are speaking of their own group, not of another’s), and is lent more credence. It’s much harder to dispense with such ideas when large groups of men keep insisting that it is true.

  31. StillGjenganger says

    @Darren 34
    I sympathise. If I was asked “Have you ever had sex when you were not in the mood?”, my answer would have to be “Quite often. When chances come so rarely, you grab them whether you happen to be in the mood or not!”.

    For all that, I think you are wrong. The experience of being forced to have sex with someone when you really do not want to but are powerless to avoid it would surely be quite devastating to a man too. It is possible that it would be much less likely to happen for a man than for a woman, but how can we know? For the second part, if a woman can force the fellow to lick, or just to lie still and be sucked, I suspect she would have a fairly good chance of getting what she wanted, even if it is not 100%.

  32. StillGjenganger says

    @Jacob 35
    Maybe women do not say this. But the ‘trope’ (whatever that means) reflects some kind of underlying reality. And the reality is maintained by both sexes. It is apparently an observational fact that women tend to be plagued by offers of sex, even when they are quietly sitting down and minding their own business. It is certainly an observational fact that men – do not. So, men get used to sex being relatively scarce and learn to try for it whenever there is a chance. And women get used to being propositioned all over the place, and learn to keep the gadflies away and wait patiently for the right one. Each group helps to maintain the behaviour of the other. The easiest way of dispelling your ‘trope’ would be if free, no-strings-attached sex became easy for men to get, and/or finding a male bedmate – any kind of bedmate – became an arduous and difficult undertaking. What is the likelihood of that?

  33. John Allman says

    “The experience of being forced to have sex with someone when you really do not want to but are powerless to avoid it would surely be quite devastating to a man too. It is possible that it would be much less likely to happen for a man than for a woman, but how can we know?”

    We can, and do, know, from the two relevant surveys of the Center for Disease Control, that, in the USA, the percentages of the female and male populations who, during the years 2010 and 2011, were “being forced to have sex with someone when [they] really [did] not want to but [were] powerless to avoid it” were very close to equal.

    Only women can be “raped, and only by men, according to the historic definition of the word “rape” in English common laws. Now that, in the USA, the offence of being “made to penetrate” has been enacted, for the first time (the male equivalent of being raped), we know that rapist behaviour is perpetrated equally by men and women, in the USA.

    The annual *incidence* of *new* victims (the correct measure of the present day problem) is equal for men and women. The statistic that gender feminists prefer to quote is the misleading lifelong *prevalence* of victimisation amongst survey responders, their reporting ever having been a victim, which is 75% for female and 25% male, according to the CDC. There are a host of changes in social behaviours, the law, attitudes, and crime figures over the past average lifetime (including a 75% reduction in the incidence of rape since 1973) that contribute to the higher life-long prevalence of rape and made-to-penetrate victimisation amongst women than amongst men. It will take an entire generation, if things stay as they are, for the equality of present-day incidence to become fully reflected in an equality of the lifelong precedence of the surviving population.

  34. Jacob Schmidt says

    And women get used to being propositioned all over the place, and learn to keep the gadflies away and wait patiently for the right one. Each group helps to maintain the behaviour of the other.

    Lets plug everything in:

    Men pester women for sex.
    Women say no to sex they don’t want.
    This presents the illusion that men always want sex.

    Yeah, I’m not seeing equal responsibility here.

  35. StillGjenganger says

    @John Allman 38

    We can, and do, know, from the two relevant surveys of the Center for Disease Control

    . Ah, but what do we know, exactly? We know that when asked the same question, men and women will answer yes in pretty much the same numbers. Some caution is in order – these are new, unexpected data, and there is no consensus on how to explain the differences in lifetime prevalence. Reliable numbers are still unsure and await consensus, but at a minimum we have to say that men being raped by women is a large and serious problem just like women being raped by men. That alone would disprove the old narrative, that rape was basically something that men did to women.

    This does, however, reopen some otherwise closed questions. The feminist version was always that anything but “continuous, explicit, enthusiastic consent” was rape (as Darren Ball said) and that rape was equally serious and equally traumatic regardless of circumstances: stranger or acquaintance or long-time lover, violence or persistent nagging, … But, as Darren pointed out, some situations that are technically rape (such as initiating sex while your lover is still asleep) are actually appreciated by some, even if they are intolerable to others. So, now that we have to digest that males are victims of non-consensual sex as much as females, maybe we can and should ask if all things that fall under that definition really are all equally serious and likely to cause equal trauma? Does it really make no difference whether the two people have wobble in a long-term sexual relationship, whether they are together for sex but disagree on the when and how, or whether there would be no intimacy except by force?

    In the specific case, one might ask if men might be rather more likely than women to react with ‘well, I did not ask for that, but a shag is a shag’. That was Darrens point, and that is what I tried rather ineptly to express in my post: not whether these things happened to men, but whether they would be lived as intolerable to the same extent by men and by women. Clearly they sometimes are. These data do show that men can be raped by women, and that is a serious problem. Whether all kinds of rape are equally serious on the average, whether the percentages are the same for men and women, and whether being penetrated and being made to penetrate are on the average equally damaging, those are questions that are still open.

  36. StillGjenganger says

    @Jacob Schmidt 40
    For one who wanted to add everything, you forgot half.
    Women do not ask men for sex, but expect that they will be asked.
    Men therefore conclude, correctly, that if they want sex they have to push for it.
    Of course I am overgeneralising tremendously, but then so were you.

  37. John Allman says

    @ StillGjenganger – message #42 on this thread

    “what do we know, exactly?”

    What the government (in the USA) has kindly enabled us to know “exactly” is that, annually, and year on year, approximately as many men are nowadays being forced to penetrate women against their wills, as women are being penetrated by men, against their wills. (You can’t argue with facts.)

    I have three daughters and two sons. Two of my offspring were born with body parts that penetrate, whilst three of them were born with body parts that are simply ideal to be penetrated.

    I love both my two sons and my three daughters, equally.

    I don’t want my two children who happen to have been born equipped to penetrate others who are built like my other three children, their sisters, when they reached maturity, to grow up feel that they are evil, because they happened to be born with boy body parts that human procreation needs them eventually to use to penetrate the girly body part with which their sisters were born with, merely because of some female supremacist misinformation, hate speech campaign

    Some politician or other deciding that *penetrating* non-consensually, although it was as commonplace as *being penetrated* non-consensually, wasn’t anything my sons ought to complain about, is a message I don’t want them to take to heart.

    Have you a problem with a father of both girls and boys taking gender equality to such extremes?

  38. StillGjenganger says

    @John Allman 44
    Yes, we know that both sexes answer yes in similar numbers to similar questions, and that whatever definition those questions reflect happens in comparable numbers to both sexes. The question is whether all those events form a single coherent group; of uniformly devastating crimes, or whether some subgroups are more serious than others is still up for discussion. I think I said that actually.

    As for the rest I pretty much agree with what you said, I just do not see it has anything much to do with what I said. It certainly does not contradict it.

  39. Koken says

    ‘Only women can be “raped, and only by men, according to the historic definition of the word “rape” in English common laws. Now that, in the USA, the offence of being “made to penetrate” has been enacted, for the first time (the male equivalent of being raped), we know that rapist behaviour is perpetrated equally by men and women, in the USA.’

    Under current English law only men can rape, though men and women can be raped – it requires penetration with a penis. Penetration with an object and forcing another to penetrate do, however, carry the same potential sentence.

  40. TMK says

    @Gjagenter #42

    >these are new, unexpected data

    Havent you read Ally take on this? The post starting with >the startling facts…<? The data is not new.

    And btw, the situation you describe (sex and sleep) are not alike at all. These circumstances and circumstances dont matter, consent do (rape play, to bring the most extreme example)

  41. melusine says

    If you’re heterosexual, surely the base response to the idea of same-sex activity would be more “meh” than “ick”? Unless the issue was being pressed, at least. Overstated revulsion seems to be into “protests too much” territory.

    If what gets someone off is power, to the extent that gender need not matter, that sounds more “powersexual” than either heterosexual or homosexual.

    StillGjenganger, some of us have been badly let down by the supposedly irrepressible male libido. Spare us a though, will you?

  42. StillGjenganger says

    @TMK 47
    Those data were new last year – and very surprising to many. Only now we know that they were not a one-off fluke, and there are surely people looking for a way to explain them away. A year is not all that much to reach a consensus

    I’ll be back on the consensus.

  43. StillGjenganger says

    @Meluine 48
    Your point is well taken.
    I know discussing these topics is personal and unpleasant for some (in a way it is not for me). I try not to be brash about it, but we do need to be able to talk about these things too.
    Or, if that is what you meant, it is true that any time you relax behaviour limits you are leaving some people with unpleasant experiences outside the protection. This is undeniable, and bad, but it is in the nature things impossible to avoid – for the same reasons that we do not set the age of consent at 18 in order to protect vulnerable 16-year-olds.

    Anyway, the male libido is perfectly repressible – no argument there.

  44. StillGjenganger says

    @ TMK 47
    Consent is what it all comes down to, of course. But in real life you cannot check consent explicitly for every little move. You try something, and then stop or go further depending on the answer you get. And what you can legitimately try depends on context – the rules are very different for strangers at one extreme and for current lovers at the other. As an example, take persistently pushing your erection up against someone, or initiating sexual touching while she is asleep (both taken from Julian Assange’s charge sheet). If you do either to a stranger on a train it is clearly a crime. If you do it to the lover currently sharing your bed, it is a matter of bed manners. Even if you are doing it for the first time. Even if you did not ask explicit permission beforehand. If you get any kind of ‘no’ you should stop, of course. But if someone finds it unacceptable that her boyfriend does this kind of thing, the remedy is to yell at him, or to dump the bastard. Not to call the police.

  45. melusine says

    StillGjenganger @50: “Or, if that is what you meant, it is true that any time you relax behaviour limits you are leaving some people with unpleasant experiences outside the protection.”

    Mm, not quite sure I can unpack what you meant here. I was just speaking up as one of the (not that few) women who’ve found themselves out-libidoing male partners. Which always leaves me a bit puzzled at the “women as gatekeepers”, “men always want it more” tropes.

  46. Gentlemanabouttown says

    “As I’ve written before, when asked by researchers, an startlingly high proportion of women will admit to having forced a man to perform a sexual act against his will by means of coercion, threat or outright force. ”

    Could you link me to that Ally? I am familiar with the CDC numbers and other studies that find a high proportion of female rapists but have not seen studies where women themselves admit to high rates of sexual violence against men.

  47. StillGjenganger says

    @Melusine 52
    Ah. I thought you were a rape victim complaining about my tone – which is about the opposite of the truth. Sorry. No wonder I did not make sense.
    For the rest, all it takes is that the averages of the two sexes are different enough to notice, and gender roles take care of the rest. I would pigeon-hole you as a bit out one side of the wide distribution of libidos, one of the some women who are on the other side of the male average. Anyway, apologies on behalf of my sex, and best of luck with the next one 😉

  48. says

    Gentlmanabouttown:

    A pretty recent survey is this: Michele L. Ybarra, MPH; Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD Prevalence Rates of Male and Female Sexual Violence Perpetrators in a National Sample of Adolescents JAMA Pediatr. Published online October 07, 2013.
    It’s available here: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1748355

    NB! It’s behind a paywall, but is available in full for free for anyone in Norway (read: having a Norwegian IP.-address).

    I have written about some of the findings of that survey in this blogpost if you aren’t able to get to the whole paper: http://tamenwrote.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/new-study-prevalence-rates-of-male-and-female-sexual-violence-perpetrators/

    In the comment’s I examine the methodology of the survey in some details.

  49. melusine says

    StillGjenganger @55: I appreciate tone of response both to what you initially thought was being said and what was actually said, but boggle at the level of crossed wires a bit.

    More on topic, I’m kind of struck by how closely the points made by AllyF about male consent come to the way people tend to respond to female assault victims who are (“known” to be) sexually active or “sexually aggressive”. How much of this is really, fundamentally, about misconceptions about what differences in sex drive mean as distinct from the fact that averages tend to correlate with (cis-)gender?

  50. Tom Cloyd says

    An exceptionally useful article, well written, and usefully sourced. I’m spreading it around as widely as I can. I’m a trauma psychotherapist, and I thought I had most of the basic information about sexual abuse well in hand, but from this piece I learned a number things about which I’d been heretofore ignorant. THAT is a great service. Other therapists to whom I’ve circulated have responded the same way.

    Thank you so much for this.

  51. says

    I read this post a few days ago, and I’ve been wanting to say something but not quite sure how to put it. Simply put, I’m glad there is someone who speaks out regularly about these things. Over the years, I’ve had three boyfriends tell me stories about unwanted sexual contact. I’m using that vague formulation because each of the incidents were different, but, to be clear, I’m talking about situations that the men continued to find disturbing enough to talk about years later. They were all very young at the time and they were all abused by women.

    I don’t think I hold any particular appeal for many who have been sexually assaulted. Perhaps, I’m flattering myself, but I think I was told these things because the men in question felt that I was somehow sympathetic and willing to listen. In each case, the men started by making light of the situation and saying it didn’t bother them. I should probably say that I didn’t really say anything to them, just sort of backchanneling to let someone know you’re listening. In each case it took some time before they got to the point of saying that it did, in fact, bother them, and that they felt what happened wasn’t right.

    It might also be worth adding that one man was American, one English and the third French, so it’s seems to be culturally widespread.

    As I said, I mostly listened, so I didn’t ask them any questions about sexual arousal, but one volunteered that it was physically pleasurable and the story of another would certainly imply that he was able to get an erection.

    Anyway, I want to thank you for continuing to bring up these difficult subjects.

  52. mange pie says

    You know what’s a myth. This blog. I don’t believe any of it. All of the situations mentioned are still explained by “they have a boner because they like what is happening”.

  53. James smith says

    My name is James and i have been suffering from weak erection and premature ejaculation for a few years now, I must admit that i have taken so many drugs just to see me free from it. At a point i begin to blame myself because i masturbated a lot during my youth age and i think that was the origin of my problem. I did series of test just to know what my problem really was and i also undergo a lot of treatment until i was introduced to a man called Mark by a friend of mine who was cured from the same problem by Dr Nick, I then contacted the doctor and after the treatment and prescriptions i was cured and restored, I will forever be grateful to this Doctor because he have changed my life for the better. Here are his contact in case you need his help drnicknkoko@gmail.com

Trackbacks

  1. […] response to this thread was due to the fact that a few days earlier I had read a post about male victims of sexual assault. When I read in the comment thread that the young man in question shouldn’t be considered a […]

  2. […] as far as I know, instead I heard it by many feminists on the internet, and I wasn't the only one:The flesh is weak: On the Erection Equals Consent rape mythThere's a Rape Epidemic in America That No One Is Talking About: Debunking 4 Myths About Male […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *