Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Unexpected

Last night I was called in to the E.R. for a 23 year old rape victim-- same age as myself. I wondered what she was like as I drove to the hospital. Then I walked into the room came face to face with a man sitting in a hospital gown.

I sincerely hope the look of shock didn't register to my face.

Even though I know male rape happens, it wasn't really a reality for me. Every other trauma call I'd had was a female victim. I hadn't entered my realm of possibility that the 23 year old "victim" wouldn't look like me.

The evening was a huge learning experience. First I learned that the aftermath of rape is similar regardless of gender: shame, anger, embarrassment, wanting to keep it secret are reactions no matter what chromosome you have.

But I learned a great deal more speaking with the male police officer who was also at the scene. The cop was horrified by the notion that this could happen. The victim was driving in a truck with a coworker who pulled over, threatened him with a weapon and then threatened his life before forcing himself on him. This sort of thing was just not registering with the cop.

"How was he supposed to know that was coming? He knew this guy! Why would he do that out of no where?"

An angry, bitter voice inside me wanted to sneer, "Welcome to the world of womanhood where I fear every man who sits next to me... all the worse if I know him in some way."

Instead I said, "It's unthinkable I know. But this was an act of power and control and fear. It's not about sex but about violence. I don't even know if the gender of the victim mattered."

But the cop could NOT get over the idea of two men doing anything sexual-- consensual or not. I could tell immediately that he was having a very hard time (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) believing this assault had happened at all.

"No way in hell I'd let a man touch me like that. Disgusting."

Well yes it IS disgusting. But it'd be just as disgusting if he did this to a woman! I felt myself feeling more and more sorry for this male victim. We ask these same questions of female victims of course: Why didn't you fight back, did you just lay there and let it happen?

But male victims have an extra stigma. Male to female assault isn't regarded as out-of-the-ordinary. It's expected that a man could/would overpower a woman. But we expect men to handle their problems. A real man should be able to protect himself. No real man would stand for being raped! They'd fight, kick ass, they'd be TOUGH and STRONG. Men are not overpowered.

So the obvious conclusion is that men who are raped are weak, defective or maybe they wanted it to happen-- maybe they are gay?

Female victims face similarly horrible accusations but without that extra disgust of homophobia, and reaction of disgust that so many straight man have at the idea of one man forcing sex on another.

The scariest conclusion came later as I walked across the dark hospital parking lot. My eyes scanned around me and my keys were at the ready. Once I jumped safely into my car, I clicked down my automatic locks and heaved a sigh of relief. It was then I had a horrible jolt. I had been conditioned to play this role, lock the doors quick, be on alert, never accept an open drink, don't go back to his room alone etc. But does any of this cross my boyfriend's mind? My fathers? My best guy friends?

I guarantee the men in my life walk freely every day never dreaming they need to fear rape or sexual violence. But truth is healthy, strong, 23 year old men can be victims. And not only does our society seem mightily unfit to deal with male victims, but also we don't entertain the notion that men CAN be victims in the first place.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Welcome to the world of womanhood where I fear every man who sits next to me... all the worse if I know him in some way."

You're sexist.

Tobes said...

If you can back that statement up with reasoning, I'll gladly explain why I'm not.

Anonymous said...

You fear every man that sits next to you. Take your statement and replace "man" with "negro" and you're a racist. You're a sexist.

Tobes said...

Your logic is not earth logic.

It's not that I think all men rape. It's that I simply realize that as a woman I have to be constantly aware of my surroundings. And if I am alone around a strange man I don't know-- I am thinking in my head-- how do you react if this guy tries to attack you?

It comes from years of feeling vulnerable.

It's not sexist. Just common sense.

And seriously "negro"?

Adrienne said...

Not to mention, it's just not the same thing. I know plenty of women who didn't have a healthy dose of fear surrounding their encounters with men they don't know, and now they wish they had.

It's not that 'rape' as a whole should be blamed on men as a whole. It's not their fault, but it is their problem. If more MEN were clear about what rape is, and more vocal about condoning it, I don't think we'd have as much instances of spousal rape, date rape, or acquaintance rape.

Tobes isn't saying that all men are guilty of rape, or even that all men have the potential for rape, just like it would be racist to make a broad generalization about African-Americans or Mexicans. The point she's making is that it isn't fair, and as an advanced society, we should be able to fix it.

Sarah said...

That part alone makes Anonymous easy to dismiss...oh wait, so does the fact that they posted as 'anonymous'.

I understand exactly what you meant Em. Most others will get it too. We've been conditioned, whether we realize it or not, to be extra cautious around men we don't know. That's not sexist, that's human nature. Sad, but true.

Tobes said...

You gals get it and I thank you for helping me explain myself better. I am so happy you stoppped by!

Joie said...

I think what "anonymous" is trying to say is that in a context-free environment, that statement would make you a sexist.

In the context we live in though, I think you're perfectly reasonable. Perhaps we should direct "anonymous" to some of Bitch PhD's excellent essays on the topic?

Here's a good one: Why Gender Matters

Tobes said...

Joie = genius.

I *Heart* Bitch Ph D

Anonymous said...

I live in constant fear that Tobes is going to eat me. You know, because she's fat.

Tobes said...

Normally I wouldn't publish a comment so pointless to the discussion but I'm sorry it made me laugh... sooooo random.


That's right bitches. Fear me. I often eat PEOPLE

Sarah said...

So let me get this straight:

Because Tobes had a logical and well-thought argument/post, that's the best you can come up with to counter what she said? Now granted, I agree with everything she said, but for those that don't, resorting to petty insults is the best you can do because you can match up with her remotely in any other way?

That's what I thought.

Adrienne said...

I live in constant fear that anonymous is going to suck all the decent come-backs off the earth.

Adrienne said...

I live in constant fear that Tobes is going to steal all the brushes... you know, because she has hair... uh... yeah....

Tobes said...

:) Thanks ladies. Your comments are appreciated

Sarah said...

I meant "can't match up", sorry Tobes...but we all know they can't, that's why they leave the comments that they do

amandaw said...

I have a male friend who has been a victim of rape. It's destroyed him. Patriarchy is vicious and it doesn't mind if it takes down a few men along with the women. It's incredible how similar the effects are (the deep feeling of shame, blaming oneself, etc.) and yet how different.

The cop sounds like an ass. I love how people assume they're invincible. "Well, I wouldn't WANT to be raped by a man, so I'd be able to fight him off!" Honey, have you thought about what rape MEANS? Do you think that the people who WEREN'T able to fight the offender off then somehow WANTED what they got? The mind boggles.