'He must have loved it!'
'Why didn't he just make her stop? What a load of bs*'
I've read many things to this tune in recent days following the claim by actor Shia LaBeouf that he was raped by a woman during his #IAMSORRY performance art show. Many people seem flabbergasted at the notion of a man being raped by a woman... Because a man can never have a bad sexual experience, and a woman could never be a sexual predator... right?! That's wrong folks.
We need to wake up to the reality of female-on-male rape. It can devastate lives, and it is hurting people everywhere, all around the world. Its secrecy is tied up in the distorted views we have about gender; it is the other, silent, unchartered side of rape culture. The same stereotypes that entrap female survivors of rape by male perpetrators - men as active, sexual agents that always want sex, that just can't help themselves (boys will be boys!), and women as passive sexual beings that are just supposed to 'take' sex and not complain - are the same that stifle male survivors who have been raped and sexually assaulted by women. This deeply embedded narrative tells men that they always want sex, from anyone, at any time. And if they get taken advantage of... well aren't they a lucky one! No use complaining about it - you might even get a few pats on the back. Women are told to be chaste and 'pure', which creates the idea that women are the opposite of men - they don't outwardly desire or pursue sex, they just agree for it to happen to them. As such, it's not surprising that many people can't even conceptualise a female sexual predator.
Men internalise this 'any hole is a goal' mentality to a heart-breaking degree. Remember when Chris Brown said that he 'lost his virginity' to an older teenage girl when he was eight years old? He bragged about it when talking to a journalist, as if it was notch on his bedpost. Our society has absolutely zero vocabulary for men to talk about this kind of assault, so to rationalise and live with his awful childhood sexual abuse Brown had to convince himself that he wanted it, that he invited it, and that he liked it. A similar account was given by Lil Wayne when recounting childhood sexual abuse by a female. So indoctrinated is this suffocating, toxic hyper-masculinity that it led Wayne to say the words 'I got raped when I was eleven. I loved it'. If that's not tragic then I don't know what is.
New studies are showing that female perpetrators of sexual violence do exist. This is potentially due to a change in methodology, which does not seek data solely within the traditional male perpetrator/female victim model. In a 2010 study by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in America, which interviewed 7,421 men, results shed light on this seemingly unexplored area. 4.8% of men had been made to penetrate their partner, of which 79.2% were made to by female perpetrators. Sexual coercion was experienced by 6% of males, with a majority of 83.6% carried out by a female. The report distinguishes technically between rape and 'made to penetrate', however many people including myself would define 'made to penetrate' as a form of rape.
Supporting results were seen in a 2011 study by the American Psychological Association, in which of the 51.2% of males interviewed who had been sexually victimised after the age of 16, 48.4% reported female perpetrators, which could include unwanted sexual contact, sexual coercion and rape. It seems that our cultural disbelief in female sexual predators is worryingly wrong. In fact, there is evidence that research has been showing figures like these for a long while: journalist Ally Fogg compiled a list of academic journal articles spanning two decades which contain data about this topic.
James Landrinth's personal story of being date-raped by a woman is an eye-opening testimony for anybody wanting to read some anecdotal evidence. The anxiety, panic attacks and emotional torment he experienced as a result quash any notion that men cannot be traumatised by sexual assault by women.
We need to stop feeding our culture with gender-based lies. We need understand that an erection does not equal consent - it's an involuntary reaction that can happen without any arousal, and in traumatic situations. We need to stop painting women as passive sexual agents, who do not seek out sex or have sexual desires. Who cannot also be just as violent, predatory and destructive as a man. We need to stop telling men that their sexuality is simple, one-dimensional and invulnerable - that they can never have a negative sexual experience that would hurt them, and that they are less of a man if they do. All this means is that when a man turns around and says that a woman sexually assaulted him, people do not have the understanding or language to react appropriately. They have been implicitly told all their lives that a woman could not do this, and that even if they could, it wouldn't hurt. Shia LaBeouf's rape claim is a startling reminder to all of us that we must allow male victims a voice, and we must listen.